Authors: Barbara Bell
The muscular hunk of a driver opens the door. I slide in. Ben’s two girls are inside. The larger one apologizes and slips a hood over my head.
We drive for a bit. Then the other girl says to me, lie down across the seat on your back.
I comply, lying with my knees up.
Take hold of the armrest, she says, grasping my wrists and raising them above my head. Then the girl leans over me, raising the hood enough to kiss me. The other begins fondling me.
Ben has this theory about men. He says that a man can smell a woman in heat, that it draws him, gets hold of his eyes, brain, and you know what else. That’s why he always has the players “prepped” before they go into the plays.
So they work me up, one of them admiring my skirt, wanting to know where I bought it. How much? Could she try it on?
By the time we arrive, I’m well prepped and shaking. We go into a room. One of them removes the hood.
Lying out on a bed replete with straps is a leather corset, gorgeous calfhide boots that look to go over the knee, elbow-length leather gloves, and a whip.
“You’re so lucky,” the smaller one says as she begins to undress me. “I’ve always wanted to wear boots like these.”
Ben taught me how to use a whip, taking me under his wing. He always complained that I didn’t have a thirst.
You’ve got to love the tip of the whip, he said. You’ve got to want it to leave its best mark.
It never appealed to me. Kat now, she was ripe when she had a whip in her hand. But when she disappeared, Ben needed a woman who could handle one well. Clients were always clamoring for it. Mostly men. And with the mood I was in, I thought I might enjoy this play more than I did before.
The corset cups cradle the lower half of my breasts, leaving the nipples exposed and pushing the breast up, rounding it, making it full. The boots are enough to die for, supple and soft, with lacing at the top.
After I’m gloved, I pick up the whip and practice a few strikes against the wall.
There are some things you never forget.
The smaller of the girls says, “Ben says you’re supposed to practice on me.” Her eyes are round and wet. Dewy. Like a fawn.
Ben made me practice on Violet before. That’s when I really started to hate him and began to listen to Violet’s constant chatter about getting out. But the thought of being free in the world scared me. It reminded me of houses burned down, of mothers roasted alive, of being hungry for days. I suspected there were other things even worse to know.
So I practiced on Violet, and it pleased Ben. After I was done, he’d take me to one of the playrooms and make love to me. I never could figure it out. And as he worked his magic hands, lips, and penis on me, I worried about Violet, anxious to get back to her. Sometimes he’d keep me with him there the rest of the day, tying me down and feeding me, making over me.
He loves you, Violet would repeat after Ben brought me back upstairs. I just felt my head go blank as I laid her on her stomach and tended the welts I’d given her.
I stare at this young girl as she removes her top and crouches down for me. I wish that I would go blind. Then I pace around her in circles, working her over good, growing more hateful with each strike, remembering Detective Bates’ pictures and Violet’s beaten face.
Someone calls on the intercom and says that they’re ready. They hood me and lead me to another room. The hood comes off. I’m in a small room with a one-way mirror. Ben is standing near, looking into the adjoining room. He pats my ass.
The door to the other room flies open, and in come Ben’s two brutes pulling along a guy who keeps himself in good shape. His hands are tied in front. He’s naked from the waist up and barefoot, with a hood on his head and manacles on his ankles. They hook his hands above, raising them until he’s stretched out.
“Anesthesiologist,” says Ben. “I guess he’s doing this instead of playing golf. It’s his first time, so give him his money’s worth.”
He squeezes my ass.
I wait, letting the young doctor hang for a bit. For some reason, the fact that he’s an anesthesiologist really bugs me. He begins to squirm, so I curl my whip in my hand and enter the room.
I walk around him slow, dropping his pants down to his knees. “Little shit,” I say. “You fucked up. Now you’re going to get what you deserve.” By the way, I want to say, could a person have an appendectomy on the left side?
Unrolling my whip, I find my distance and stance and go to work on him. And something about those pictures flares up in me. For the first time, I want this fucking man to feel the bite. I want him to suffer. Goddamn anesthesiologist.
I walk around, grab the top of the hood, and yank it off, standing back so he can see me in all my leather glory. His eyes go bright with lust. Sliding the whip around his neck, I stand nose to nose with him. His eyes are wan with desire. After a few more whacks he doesn’t take long, erupting and making a mess as I’m getting in a final lick. I stand silent as he wilts down, trembles, and hangs harder on his hands.
Then I turn and glare into the mirror, throwing the whip down, knowing Ben’s back there, watching. Smiling.
When Jeremy first brought me home from the hospital, I wouldn’t go out of doors. He thought that a little strange, me being twenty-six and all, but he’d had so much practice with coaxing strays that he worked his dog talents on me.
Jeremy used words and phrases like “T-bonds” or “buying futures.” That one always stumped me. How the hell can you buy a future? And I’m thinking that if the past weren’t so great, why the hell would you bother?
Once Jeremy got me to leave the house, we went out to eat almost every night. I cut dainty bites from wet, rippling hunks of beef. I scooped out my potatoes. And I thought of all my leavings gathering into one place, all those red fatty hanks of leftover meat and green stuff too rotten to eat, all filling up Dumpsters in a row.
After Jeremy taught me to drive, there was no stopping me. And I learned to manage a house and how to cook. Kat had taught me some cooking basics at Ben’s. But now I pushed on cantaloupes. I could choose a peach, thump an eggplant, and squeeze an artichoke. I had a talent for it.
I was picky about my shrimp, the white sauce for the crab, the beluga, the foie gras, the morel dressing for the veal.
That’s what I’m thinking of now as I look back at that anesthesiologist’s white, whipped ass. Veal. I pick up the hood from the floor and fit it over his head again.
“Come back and see me,” I whisper in his ear. He quakes a little at the thought of it. Then I pick up my whip and head for the door.
No one’s there. I sit in a chair and wait. Eventually, the boys come and take the anesthesiologist out.
I’m thinking about the people in Rivertown all frozen in place. I wonder about being frozen and if it’s better to watch the tooms or be stacked in them.
The girl I whipped earlier comes in the room. In her hand is Ben’s black bag.
“I’m sorry,” she says.
You’re sorry, I think. Why you?
She reaches in the bag and takes out a collar, then walks behind me, fitting it around my neck and buckling it on.
Then she returns in front of me and removes my gloves and boots, kissing my fingers and feet.
The whole world’s sorry. One great big fucking sorry.
Violet haunts. She swims the air.
“Turn around in the chair,” the fawn says, her voice just as one might imagine coming from so gentle a creature as a young deer.
I turn and lean onto the chair back, exhausted by the dangers.
Once she’s removed my corset, she rubs my shoulders and back like Violet would do after Ben had worked me for too long. She kisses down along my spine, again like Violet. Ben has prepared her for me.
“Another play already?” I say.
I wait, feeling myself respond to her as I would to Violet. She gently takes both my wrists, cuffing them together in back. Now a blindfold is placed over my eyes.
She stands me up, leading me back into the room where the smell of the good doctor permeates. I hear the motor run and feel her put the hook in the ring of my collar. She raises it enough to keep me standing straight.
Now she goes into high gear, caressing me, fondling, kissing. So much like Violet, worming her way through my tough outer layers, the ones that made me so hard to crack.
I want to love this dew-eyed fawn. I want my blindness. I want to be deaf.
I see how well he has her trained, how refined her gifts, and why Ben chose the fawn to do this to me. She goes up on her tip-toes and kisses me on my lips. Then she leaves me. I hear the ticking of her hoofed feet retreating.
Now I wait. I know that Ben will come next. It’s his style. I’ve been prepped, ripe for his play on me.
The door opens and closes again. Someone circles me. A hand runs along my shoulders.
I’ve never seen you so beautiful as when you walked through that lobby last week, says Ben. You’ve gotten better.
He keeps circling, running one hand around my waist.
I want you to come back, Beth. I’ve missed you.
You can take me back any time you please. I can’t stop you.
No. I want you to come to me. That other life isn’t for you. This is where you belong.
I’m too old, Ben. I wouldn’t last.
Not for the plays. For me.
I shiver, remembering what Violet said. He loves you. Then I think of the picture of the Dumpster, of the blanket drawn back.
Give me time, Ben. I’m not ready.
Oh, you’re ready.
He grasps both my breasts from behind. I lie my head against his chest. He slides one hand down between my legs.
You were meant for me. I loved you the first time I saw you.
He continues with his hands, knowing me so well. My legs start to shake.
Ben moves around me like a whisper and he slides down and then up, guiding in his penis. Then his hands slip down my sides and back to my ass, one hand beneath each cheek. He lifts me up and begins to thrust.
I feel poverty. He is starved for me. If I had been Violet, I would have smiled, would have known my power over him, would have made him pay.
Instead, I am riveted by his need and by his power over me. He pulls me tight against him, my body so full of pleasure, I think I might shatter. Ben comes, holding me off the floor, quaking, which sends me over the edge. I come then, shuddering against his body.
He keeps me like that until I have wilted upon him, my cheek resting along his chest. Then he sets me down, kissing me over my face, his big hands on both sides of my chin.
I’m stymied and dull with pleasure as I hear him walk behind me to the other room. When he comes back, he stands silent for a long time.
What did you do with the money? he says.
Don’t fuck with me, Beth. I don’t want to hurt you. I never liked hurting you. But I will if I have to.
My eyes shoot back and forth, trying to clear my head.
I gave it to my brother, I say.
Your brother. Now he paces, slapping something in his hand. I know that sound. It’s his length of rubber hose. He whacks me hard on the side.
Don’t lie to me, Beth. I can smell a lie.
He found me, Ben. From the book, the novel. Those stories were our stories, from when we were kids. He needed money.
Whack. Whack. Along my back and shoulders.
I’m not lying, Ben. I don’t have the money.
Whack just beneath my breasts.
Now he stops. I can feel it coming, like when a wind hits the trees far off, then tosses the ones nearer, shooting dust in front. I can see it as clear as if my eyes were uncovered. I don’t turn. I don’t let it fall light. I want him to break my face.
His fist slams into my nose. I lose balance and begin to choke as the collar tightens on the hook. I get my feet back under me and ease off the pressure.
Kill me, I scream. Fucking kill me. Go on.
His big arms grab me like I’m nothing, and in one movement he jerks me off the hook, throwing me into the wall. I catch most of it on my shoulder, then slide to the floor. Before I know what’s going on, he’s shoved me into the hall and is dragging me by the collar, then getting me on my feet and pushing me in front. He shoves and drags me up a flight of stairs.
Lying on the landing, I kick out in the direction where I hear keys going into a lock. A door opens.
It was some fucking client of yours, wasn’t it, Ben? Who was it? Who the fuck did it?
I force myself up on my knees. He shakes me. You’re not making any sense.
Ben hits me in the face again and I take the floor hard, lying there woozy. He grabs my ankles and drags me through the door into a room with carpeting.
Violet, I say, tasting the blood running out my nose. Who cut her so bad? You know, don’t you?
He’s fiddling with something. You’re a crazy bitch, he says. Maybe this will teach you not to lie to me.