The headlights created a soft pool of light in the dimness ahead, softly lapping at the sides of the road as the car bounced down the country lane. Under cover of relative darkness, Virginia let one lone tear trickle down her cheek.
Even that small indulgence felt inappropriate. It had been a lovely evening, all the firm ropes, sharp stinging swats, sensual caresses, the lingering prickles reminding her of the intense pain that had come before.
Something was missing, something more. Of course she didn’t tell Thomas; she couldn’t sound greedy. He had told her, from their first meeting, that he wouldn’t be able to fulfill all her desires. That he could spend time with her, develop a deep friendship, provide guidance, but that he would not be able to see her as often as she would otherwise have liked. She knew that she was one of many women Thomas dominated, but had balked at his suggestion that she seek out other partners herself if she wanted more attention than he was able to give.
It had taken forever and a half to work up the nerve to seek out Thomas, to sort through profiles and unsolicited messages to find a man who seemed safe, who seemed genuine. She had no desire to repeat the process, regardless of how deeply her desire ran.
So she stifled her emotions, or at least postpone their expression until Thomas had dropped her back home. She may have gotten away with it, too, had it not been for the soft sniff as the tear dripped off her chin.
“Are you alright?”
It was a simple question, a common question. A friendly question of casual intent, not the loaded bombshells of questions with which he peppered her during a scene.
Virginia meant to answer casually, dismissing the issue, but the silent sobs that choked her made it impossible to dismiss the issue so easily.
“Relax,” she heard him say as he reached over to grasp her hand, his grip warm and sturdy and reassuring until he had to remove it to change gears. “Relax, just a few moments, hang in there,” he told her in firmer tones. “Breathe.”
Virginia took a shuddering breath. It was a struggle, but she had no choice but to comply when he used that tone of voice.
Thomas glanced at her briefly once more before returning his attention to the road, scanning the stretch ahead for a place to pull over.
A quarter mile ahead, the hedgerow opened into a small lay-by, and Thomas deftly parked the car before focusing fully on Virginia, unbuckling his seatbelt and wrapping the sobbing girl in a warm hug.
Virginia felt guilty in his arms. This wasn’t her place. This was where Erica belonged, she had merely borrowed it for the afternoon. Now, Virginia couldn’t shake the inner notion that she was overstaying her welcome, regardless of how tightly Thomas held her, how strongly he rebuffed her tearful attempts to escape his embrace. She was delaying him, his wife was expecting him. Erica knew well by now how long it should take to drop Virginia back and return home. Erica would know that she was being selfish. Virginia shook herself more strongly, trying to wriggle from Thomas’s arms. She couldn’t let it end like this.
Thomas did not let go, not as she struggled harder, nor as she lay limp against his chest, nor as her sobbing abated to hoarse breathy sighs.
“What was that about?” Thomas finally asked.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t m-mean t-t-to,” Virginia stuttered as tears threatened again.
“That’s not what I asked,” Thomas scolded gently as he tipped her chin up to look him in the eyes. “Your feelings are nothing to be ashamed of. The only source for shame would be in hiding them, lying about them. Now,” he continued a touch more softly, “can you tell me where this pain is coming from?”
“I. . .I don’t want to leave you,” Virginia admitted, blood rising to her face. “I mean, I know I have to. It was just so intense- I know I asked for that,” she hastened to add. “I just didn’t expect to feel so . . . so connected.”
“What we do is intimate, whether it be deathly serious or light fun. Don’t mistake the fun for frivolity, these things we do, their power is not to be underestimated.”
“But. . .but I thought we. . .I thought you. . . this is, we’re just friends, right? Just play partners. I shouldn’t be getting attached.” Virginia turned away to wipe her cheeks dry again, not wishing to repeat her breakdown.
“Hush,” he whispered as he wrapped her in another hug. “There is no such thing as ‘just friends’ after true submission is given. It is always intimate, but there are different flavours of intimacy. What I do with Erica is different from what I do with you, what she does with her other partners is different from what we do together. That is part of the reason we play with others, to explore other sides of ourselves. We are still committed to each other even if we have other, deep friendships as well. It can be difficult for all involved- jealousy, compersion, loneliness and reunification- these are powerful things, but after many years and many conversations, Erica and I have both decided the benefits of openness are worthwhile.”
Virginia remained quiet, still gently crying but no longer shaking with sobs. Thomas continued, “These feelings can creep up on you. It’s entirely understandable. You’ll learn to see them coming, in time. But it will take time and patience- for both yourself and for me. Don’t be so hard on yourself, give yourself time to grow, time to sit with these feelings.”
He turned her face towards his again. “And also be patient with me. I’ve been honest with you about the other demands on my time and my love. I will make time for you, I will make room for you. You are worth it. However, I will also need time for the others. Just because I am not with you all the time, that doesn’t mean that I don’t care. Emotions are complicated enough as is, and even more so in complex relationships. There’s no magic formula, but it does get easier with practice. I will help you through this.”
He held her hand strong and steady and present. Virginia nodded silently. He was right. There was no reason for panic.
“Can we continue?”
“Yes,” Virginia replied immediately. “I’m sorry about all this, and I do want to see you again.”
Thomas laughed and tousled her hair playfully. “No more apologizing. And I’m glad you still want to be together, but that’s not what I meant. I wanted to know if you’d mind if I got us back on the road.”
“Oh. Yes, yes, of course,” Virginia said with a slight flush of embarrassment, though nothing like what she had felt before. Thomas gave her hand one last squeeze before restarting the engine, checking his mirrors, and pulling back out onto the road.
The rest of the drive passed in silence, though a companionable one. When Thomas pulled into her drive and turned off the car, Virginia leaned over to give him one last quick hug before stepping out. Turning back to wave, she was surprised to see Thomas emerging from the car as well.
“You don’t have to come in. I’m alright now. Thanks for the chat,” Virginia said with a false cheer that was fooling neither of them.
“Bullshit,” Thomas scolded her gently, wrapping a supportive arm around her as he walked her to her door, inviting himself in and helping her remove her coat.
Soon they were sitting together on the sofa, chatting amicably over steaming mugs of tea, as if it were a perfectly normal evening, as if the scene, the breakdown, everything that happened afterward, had never occurred.
But these things couldn’t be ignored forever.
“Have you given any thought to accompanying Erica and I on Tuesday? I have some friends that I want you to meet,” Thomas said, and felt Virgina tense against him as she recognised the introduction of a subject she always hesitated to talk about. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but I think it would help. I still want to see you, but I get the feeling that this isn’t enough for you. I won’t be enough for you. You know that, don’t you?”
Thomas hadn’t mentioned his desire that she look for another partner in weeks. She had reacted badly the first time, panicked that Thomas was using this as a way to leave her gently, and it had taken several hours of calm conversation and reassurance to dispel the notion. The few times he had tried to reintroduce the topic, Virginia had been non-committal, including a vague “maybe” to his invitation to meet others from his circle at one of their regular meetings.
He hadn’t pressed the issue, and part of her hoped that he would let it go. Part of her hoped that he wouldn’t. She didn’t want to admit that she needed more than he was able to give her, it felt selfish, greedy, but after tonight she couldn’t deny it any longer.
Virginia nodded into his chest, the admission unlocking a rawness inside her that couldn’t be expressed through tears.
“This gap you have, there is someone out there who can fill it. Or some ones.”
“How do you know?”
“I have one too. You helped fill it.”
“Erica too. And Trish. And Ryan and Dave. My gap isn’t your gap, your needs are not the same as mine. Similar, in some respects, otherwise this wouldn’t be so emotional for you, it wouldn’t be as powerful, wouldn’t be as worthwhile.”
Erica smiled, replaying memories of their session earlier that evening, recalling the tenderness of his embrace, the electrifying shock that coursed through her when a cress became a yank or a slap, the way he held her after, the way he seemed to understand that she needed to start with just him, but that she did need more. . .“The session was. . . lovely really. I just wish we could do that more often.”
“That’s part of the reason I want you to meet my friends. I’m only human, and while I’m more than willing to give you what time I have, if you want, if you need more, you may find satisfaction looking elsewhere.”
“Yes,” Virginia admitted again, verbally but quietly. “I’ll go. . . but I’m scared.”
Thomas hugged her tightly. “I’ll be there with you, as will Erica. You know us, and we won’t feed you to the wolves, not just yet,” he said with a wink. “Not until you decide you’re ready.”
“Fair enough,” Virginia replied with a half smile that led to a yawn.
“Looks like I should leave you to sleep soon. However. . .it would be a shame to let this visit go to waste. It is time for bed though, go to your room, young lady.”
Virginia gave her first true grin as she leapt from the sofa and scampered to her room. Moments later, she had whipped off her dress and slipped into a sleek black nightgown. Perching herself on the edge of her bed, she waited for Thomas to arrive.
He gave her an approving smile and another tender hug before drawing her across his knee. As spankings go, it was neither long, nor hard, nor intense. His hand struck her gently, one moment reigniting the marks from their earlier encounter, the next soothing them away again with a gentle caress. Virginia relaxed into it, enjoying these last few minutes with Thomas, savouring his unique way of saying good-night.
When he let her up for a final hug, any trace of her earlier tears had vanished to be replaced with a deeply contented smile.
“How do you feel?”
“Good. I have to leave, but you have something to remember me by. Something to keep you warm tonight,” he said with a soft pat to her bottom.
“Sleep well. I will call you in the morning.”