I didn’t want the pint. I didn’t have time for the pint. But I had even less time for the worries that had plagued me since Sunday night.
I have nothing against Harry, quite the opposite. Tedious at times, but he has a heart of gold. And he has a secret- or had a secret. Just what prompted him to drunkenly confide in me his desire to be spanked, I’ll never know.
I’d been shocked at first- not at the subject itself, but at where and when and how it had cropped up. For how much time I devote to writing about spanking, or talking with like minded souls, it was still jarring to hear the word mentioned in my local. It had been a busy night, and at first I thought I’d misunderstood him, that my mind had filled in the blanks inappropriately. As he continued, any doubt I had was soon washed away. This was a desire that ran deeply in him, just as it did with me. This was something he burried, just as I did. I knew there was no stopping him, now that he had made the initial confession. The explanation, the outpouring, would run its course. I knew because I had done this part as well.
To my shame, I did not tell him that. I made non-committal noises through his monologue, before changing the subject with a decided lack of grace to the new cafe around the corner. He allowed for the transition, but joined in half-heartedly. My guilt grew.
It wasn’t until I had finished my last pint- waving off Mick lest he draw me another- and shrugged into my jacket that my better nature (I hope) won out. I leaned in close to give him a parting hug, lingering just long enough to quietly say, “You know those desires you spoke of? Of being spanked? I have them too. You’re not alone.”
The look on his face broke my heart. It was genuine shock, mixed with confusion. With a final squeeze of his hand, I turned to go, cursing myself inwardly for fumbling the encounter.
My local was quiet, even for a Sunday. As I walked in, I saw one couple near the end of the bar. Aside from them there was only Harry, perched just to the right of my usual stool, clearly waiting for me. Judging by the way he teetered unsteadily as he craned to see who had just entered, he had been waiting a while.
“Ah! I was hoping you would turn up.” Harry boomed across the pub.
“Usual?” Mick asked from behind the bar.
“Thanks, Mick,” I replied as usual to the latter with a quick smile before turning to Harry, steeling myself for what would doubtless be an awkward conversation. Promising myself that I would be there for him, that I would not shy away from this.
I gave Harry a smile and a hug, a hug he chose to lengthen beyond what social convention would consider appropriate for the casual greeting of an acquaintance. I saw Mick raise an eyebrow at me, a silent offer of rescue. I shook my head slightly. I needed to do this, and needed whatever privacy the quiet pub could offer to do so.
Harry wasted no time, perhaps fearing I would slip away again, or, more likely, simplly because these thoughts had been tumbling around his head for so long that they came spilling out at the first opportunity.
“What you told me, about wanting to be spanked, I was shocked,” he started, before even settling back into his stool.
I smiled and shrugged. “Sorry for not telling you earlier in the evening. You took me by surprise as well, not that that’s any excuse.”
Harry looked relieved as we continued to chat. He soon became increasingly animated though, often forgetting to keep his voice subdued. Perhaps I should have been more vigilant, perhaps I should have shushed him whenever his voice rose. One outburst about slippers or canes might be dismissed by onlookers as off-hand, out of context, or, at worst, eccentric. A few dozen times, however, and anyone not absorbed in their own conversation would be left in little doubt as to the general direction of ours.
I should be better at this by now, the talking bit. One thing I have developed is something of a skill for spotting others listening into these sort of conversations. In anonymous city pubs, it is nothing more than an amusing pastime. Here, however, the stakes were higher.
The couple at the end of the bar were blissfully oblivious, wrapped up in their own little world and in no mood to listen in on ours. Mick, however. . . Mick was spending far too much time polishing that one glass, his posture cocked just a bit too far in our direction to be entirely natural. His gaze lingered everywhere but in our direction. Mick, for better or worse, knew Harry’s secret. And my secret.
Too late now. I hid my panic, gave Harry another smile, and continued. No point in stopping now, any damage had already been done.
Monday. It had been hell, even for a Monday, even accounting for the late night that had come before. I wanted nothing more than to schluff home, stumble into bed, and fall unconscious until morning. But the kernel of uncertainty in my gut had grow roots, and unless I wanted the thing to flower overnight, a decidedly uncomfortable and unrestful process, I had to know.
I reminded myself to breathe deeply as I walked into my local, wondering if this might be the last time I could do so, scolding myself for dreaming up terrible worst-case scenarios, wondering how close to the truth they could come. Mick wouldn’t tell anyone. But if he did, how quickly would this spread? How would the others react? How would Mick react?
I closed the door behind me, and tried to walk to my stool as steadily as I could. The pub was nearly empty again, unsurprising for this hour, but still something I counted as a blessing. If this went poorly. . .
“Usual?” Mick asked. I chanced looking up at him for the first time. He was wearing his usual half-smirk, the half-smirk of a barman who knew too many secrets as a matter of his trade. A barman who knew better than to judge people on the things they kept hidden from most of the world.
“Thanks, Mick,” I replied as I settled onto my stool, dropping more weight than just my bag from off my shoulders.
It would be ok.