Much to Learn: Epilogue

From the Sarah Saga

Eighteen months had passed. The first few had been the worst, as the truth of his disappearance set in.  The shock of it had kept Sarah awake long into the night, numbed, but unable to slip into the healing of unconsciousness.

 

As closed as she tried to keep her emotions, the lack of sleep proved impossible to hide, and impossible to explain.  

 

Her friends had noticed, and with the best of intentions recommended that she Talk to Someone. Someone professional.   

 

Sarah tried the therapy, but over the course of the twelve weeks she gave it, never quite worked up the courage to bring up the subject of Mark. How could she do so without bringing up what he meant to her?  The forbidden intimacy that they shared?  Confidentiality or not, the town was too small to risk revealing such things to someone local, and life was too busy to take the time to regularly haul herself to the nearest city for a touch of anonymity.

 

It was the busyness of life that eventually eased the symptoms, dulled the pain. Before she knew it, she realised that nearly a year had passed since Mark, more than a year since she had last been spanked.

 

The realisation was bitter-sweet. Sarah remembered the yearning she’d felt early on, convinced that monthly spankings were too infrequent.   While relieved that the obsession had dulled somewhat, she couldn’t help but feel that she’d left a part of herself behind in the healing process. It was time to find that part again.

 

And so Sarah dragged herself off to her first munch, signed up for a profile on that site she’d been avoiding, and started the search over again.

 

But that is another story.

 

***

 

“Is it you?”

 

Sarah blanched as she read the message, the message she thought she’d never see.  Sure, she had found Mark’s profile shortly after creating her own.  He’d been friends with many of those she had grown closest to after her first few munches and play parties, but his lack of recent activity led her to believe that he had quietly settled into the background, aside from a few posts indicating that he was looking for a new partner.  Nothing, of course, that gave her the slightest hope that he wished to reconnect with her.

 

It had hurt at first, nearly as badly as when he had disappeared, but at least the message was clear this time.  He was alive (which was good) and still interested in spanking (also good), but had shown no desire in reaching out to her (which was. . . a thing. Information. Something she could use to move on.).  

 

Until- “Is it you?”

 

Three little words, so many months later, cast doubts on all that, and the turbulence it induced in her emotions dredged up old pain.

 

She quipped a terse reply and slammed her laptop shut, a moment later shaking her head at the childish action.  She restarted the machine and pulled up his profile.  Yes, he was active again, posting frequently for the last few months. . .. and attending the same munch she was the next evening.

 

Sarah panicked.  She had only just passed the point where munches were more fun than terrifying.  She had enough anxiety in the large-group mingling as is, how would she manage to keep her emotions in check when confronted with Mark’s sudden reappearance?

 

Others had managed it, she told herself, she knew of several former couples among her new friends that quite peacefully sat at opposite ends of the pub, exchanging pleasant nods, brief greetings, and generally staying out of each other’s way.  Could she do the same?   

 

Sarah wasn’t sure. She had missed the lessons growing up. Having restrained herself from the typical early forays into love, she had found herself faced with a seemingly insurmountable heap of loss.  She had missed the lessons in how one moves on from such things, how one forges a new, distant, civil acquaintance with former lovers.   

 

She would need to learn, and quickly.  And hope that Mark had similar ideas for how their interactions would progress from here.  Tentatively, she logged back onto her computer and pulled up his profile.  

 

 

As she read, the panic hit fully.  She considered staying home, but knew that was a non-starter. She couldn’t hide from him forever.  Better sooner than later, get the initial meeting over with. It might be ok.  The tightening in her chest told her that was a slim possibility.  

 

Others had made this work, she reminded herself.  The spanking scene was small, which was her problem now, but that also meant she had several others to look to as role models, several others who would have also gone through this or something like it.  

 

She knew she knew them, but in her panic could not remember. . .

 

Gerard.  Happily married, he might not have had to deal with anything like this, but she got the impression that he had indeed dealt with a lot over the years, and had done so with good cheer and grace.  And, perhaps most importantly, she knew her sponsor was discrete. That he would listen and not tell, that she could vent things to him that, when all of this settled, might not be her true feelings, just artifacts of the moment.

 

She fired off a single, brief text.  “Can we talk sometime before the munch? I have something I’m a bit worried about and would like to run past you.”

 

Even with the late hour, Gerard rang back less than a minute later.  He was indeed a good friend. Unfortunately, the quick reply hadn’t given Sarah much time to compose her thoughts, never mind her emotions.   

 

What followed was a semi-coherent blubbering phone call, but one which at least left her with a clear picture of what she needed to do, and a clear indication that she would have at least one person to look to for support if she fell apart the following evening.

 

“What is it that you want to happen at the munch?” Gerard had asked. It was a simple question, but had provided a ray of clarity for Sarah.

 

“I want us to be able to stay out of each other’s way. To exchange a greeting, perhaps, but otherwise just keep to ourselves.”

 

“And what are you most worried about?” Gerard then asked.

 

Sarah couldn’t answer verbally, but instead dissolved into sobs, which nonetheless answered his question perfectly.  

 

Gerard stayed with her a few minutes more, long enough to reassure her that she wasn’t the first to go through this, that it would be ok, that the munch was civil, that she would have support or space as she needed.

 

***

 

As it happened, the munch passed without incident, and just as Sarah had intended. She and Mark had shared a “hello” and very very brief semi-hug, the most impersonal greeting one could manage in this crowd without drawing attention, and then she had turned away to resume another conversation, doing her best to forget his presence just over her shoulder until he moved away, mingling on his own.

 

Walking home, Sarah was almost giddy with relief.  It would be ok. She fired off a quick but heartfelt thank you to Gerard before settling into bed for the night.   

 

It was then that the slightest bit of guilt hit.  Mark had tried, he had reached out, late though it was. And she had all but snubbed him.   Perhaps it had been justified, but perhaps not. Either way, she and Mark would have to learn to be together in this community, and the smallest of olive branches could go a long way.

 

Sarah dug out her laptop again, and composed one of the most difficult letters she’d ever written.

 

She lost track of the number of revisions it had gone through, the frustrations and anxiety and sorrow that were vented and muted, shouted and erased, until she was left with a few solid paragraphs, poignant, true, but not accusatory. It said what it needed to, that she had valued their time together, that the experience had been all-consuming, that the loss had been devastating, the reappearance shocking.  That she wished they could be civil, if not friends.

 

“You have lost my trust, but not my gratitude or respect,” she said in closing, and, satisfied, drained, pressed “send.”  

 

He replied.  He offered no explanation for his actions, but did give an apology- a brief line that eighteen months ago would have been wholly inadequate, but now, when time had washed away the bolus of the pain, served to soothe that which remained.

 

The scars would be with her forever, but barely visible, and only to those who got close enough, looked deeply enough, to see that although the experience had shaped her path, it did not define her.

 

***

Over the next several months, Sarah and Mark settled into a sort of peaceful companionship.  She made a point to seek him out at events, to catch up, to reminisce, to rebuild their friendship.

 

Seeing him was still somewhat difficult; the small things- the glint in his eye, that half smirk he gave, the feel of his hands on her shoulders as they hugged, brought back far too many memories, but those memories were lovely things, things that she wanted to remember. She hoped it was the same for him.

 

They talked. About nothing, about spanking, about partners past and present- and potential future partners- with the special openness that would seem odd outside the community.  Sarah found herself speaking of Mark to women considering playing with him, answering questions about their most intimate times openly and honestly, found herself recommending his expertise, hoping that these new friends had something of the same intense, intoxicating experience she’d had.  

 

At the same time, Sarah talked to Mark of the men- and the women- she had played with over the last year or so, the experiences she’d been able to give herself over to, thanks in no small part to his introduction.  The way he smiled at her during these talks, the pride in his eyes, that was special.  That was worth it. That was a foundation from which they could build, something solid and lasting.

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