By Kairn Savage
“Here, I want you to have this.” Ernie thrust the large, heavy box into my arms. It was the last thing I expected from him. Ernie had texted me ten minutes earlier, saying he’d be stopping by my apartment with something for me. Honestly, I was bewildered to hear from him. This was the first time he’d ever texted me anything at all. He said he’d got my number from Mistress Marlena.
After his jolly “shave and a haircut… two bits” knock, I hesitated before opening the door. A gift from Ernie could be anything from used anal beads to a goldfish swimming in a plastic bag. Who knew?
I examined the heavy, unwieldy box, trying to understand. The picture on the outside seemed so domestic. Mundane.
“What? No, I can’t accept this.” I held it out like a crying baby foisted upon me.
“Please. Take it. I’m not using it and you said you always wanted one.” His gaze touched the sky and his hands rose to ward off my attempt to give it back. His wet dog smell wafted my way. I had no recollection of telling him this. Seemed like a strange conversation for one of Mistress Marlena’s parties. Especially since Ernie was always naked, save for a collar and maybe a thong.
I relented. “Uh, okay. Thank you, then.”
His flicker of a smile disappeared the moment it arrived. His azure eyes, usually merry behind his spectacles, dragged on the ground. It was weird to see him clothed. His rolled up faded jeans exposed beefy calves. The spiked leather dog collar glinted under his ripped black t-shirt, which strained over his belly. Clambering onto his ten-speed bicycle with a caboose, he bade me farewell in his formal, Ernie way, with a small fluttering hand gesture and a sideways tilt of his head.
“Good day, madam.”
With a final courtly tip of his dirty pageboy cap, he whistled softly while cruising down my street. I didn’t know yet that this was the last time I’d see him.
Yeah. It was weird for me to have friends like Ernie and Mistress Marlena. Especially since I was a boring kindergarten teacher. How we met was a funny story, actually. I’d been dating this guy, Joe, for around six months. Preppy stockbroker Joe been musing for weeks about his interest in S&M, wanting to explore his dominant side. And who was I to judge? I was game, if that was what he really wanted. Joe had found an online advertisement to learn to be a “Dom” and asked if I’d join him to meet some mistress person. I agreed.
But in the car on the way to her apartment, we had yet another screaming match. (who knew what about?) He yelled, crimson faced, for me to pull over and stomped out, slamming the door. I shook my head driving away. Ridiculous. I had to consider: should I meet Mistress Marlena on my own, when this wasn’t even my thing? I decided I had to go. I couldn’t stand her up. It just felt… rude.
Her urbane building was upscale, discrete, the front garden well maintained. After buzzing the apartment number, her cheerful intercom greeting made my heartbeat slow from a gallop. She sounded sane enough. In the sleek elevator, I wiped sweaty, shaky palms on my jean skirt and tried to moderate my breathing. Deciding what to wear to see a dominatrix had been daunting. My wardrobe contained little black and no leather. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would she ask me to strip and start beating me right away? Hopefully, there would be a safe word. I pictured myself screaming “rutabaga!” or some such nonsense.
After navigating the chic hallway, I located, then knocked on her black apartment door. Mistress Marlena welcomed me with a friendly hello and a firm, dry handshake.
“Nice to meet you.” She beckoned me in, seemingly unfazed that I was sans boyfriend. Marlena was a pretty, curvy woman in her sixties, perfectly average in black leggings and a low-cut emerald shirt. I’d expected cheesy black walls and grubby lethal equipment. But the apartment was beige, upscale. With its unobtrusive art and stylish furnishings, it could have been a model home. Her small bare feet tucked under her when we sat on the plush sofa.
“So, yeah,” I looked down at my hands, “Joe and I had a fight on the way here. He’s not coming.”
“It took a lot of courage to come here on your own,” she replied, gazing into my eyes. I swallowed down a lump. Something about her kindness brought tears to my eyes. I hadn’t realized how upset I’d been about the fight with Joe, how nervous I’d felt facing her alone.
“How about some tea?” She stood.
“That would be lovely, thanks.”
It smelled like sage and jasmine in her apartment. The only hint of what she did for a living was a large wooden X cross hovering menacingly in a corner. There were sleek floor-to-ceiling cabinets. What torture devices did she keep in there?
Marlena returned, placing a metal tray on the glass coffee table. It was green tea in a tall rectangular pot with matching white square porcelain cups. Drinking without spilling was a challenge. She watched in amusement while I figured it out. The trick was to aim for the middle of one flat side.
“So, tell me about your interest in kink.” She pushed a lock of chestnut hair off her shoulder.
“Um, I don’t have one. It’s really Joe’s thing.”
“Really, no interest?” Her hazel eyes sparkled under fringe bangs.
“I’m a kindergarten teacher.” I said, by explanation. “I like the missionary position…” Her husky laugh warmed my insides.
“Many of my clients come to the lifestyle late. They’re mostly powerful men.”
“Yes. Lawyers, doctors, a judge… They have these huge responsibilities in their jobs, so they need subservience in the bedroom. With me, they’re free. I make all the decisions.” She smiled and lifted the steaming cup to her lips.
“How long have you been doing this?” My tea cup clinked into the saucer.
“Over twenty years. You understand; I’m not a prostitute. My boundaries are nonnegotiable. The deal is strictly domination for money.”
“It must be dangerous sometimes.”
“Oh, the vast majority of my clients are regulars. And I’ve been doing this long enough that I know how to read people.”
“Really?” I sat back with a smile. “What do you read about me?” She gazed into my eyes and looked me up and down, a small wrinkle forming on her brow.
“I’d say you grew up with financial hardship. An only child. Maybe you haven’t talked to your parents in a while?”
“Wow! How did you…” I felt myself blush. Instead of feeling judged, her attention was flattering.
“Like I said. Good at reading people.” She shrugged.
Marlena’s world couldn’t be more different than mine; but somehow, we clicked. Under her loving gaze, I opened like a sunflower. I basked in her confidence and affection. It felt like we’d been friends forever.
This began my dubious foray into the world of BDSM. After Joe and I broke up (let’s face it; that relationship was doomed), I kept seeing Mistress Marlena. She never asked for money. We started taking long walks along the seawall. Once, a seagull pooped on her head and she had me snap mock-serious photos, which were sent to her friends with the caption, “non-consensual scat play.” I loved her sense of humour. In her texts, she capitalized her own pronouns, as though she were God. We would often talk about her work.
“After years of experience, I can look at someone and know if they’re a ‘Dom,’ a ‘Sub’ or a ‘Switch.’” In Marlene’s mind, everyone fell into one of these categories. She squeezed my arm as we strolled. “You, my dear, have submissive qualities. If you want, we can work to bring them out.”
“You think?” It sounded intriguing.
And maybe she was right. There was something about Marlena that made me want to serve her. I started with home-baked cookies. Her offhand comment about preferring chocolate chip became a command in my mind. Somehow, beating the sugar and butter, folding in the flour, knowing it would be Mistress enjoying the chewy chocolatey goodness, felt like a ceremonial act. The pleasure of watching her eyes close as her glistening lips closed around one of my cookies felt better than sex.
One day, while chatting in her living room, I noticed a ding in her blood red nails and offered to redo them. Touching her warm hands, filing and painting her nails while kneeling before her, felt intimate, devotional. Her appreciative glance at her nails afterward made me beam with pride.
Soon, I would do anything to please her. Mopping, dusting, cleaning out her fridge. Whatever I could do, I did. Her motherly domination awakened my daughterly subservience. When I knelt and she cradled my head on her full bosom, my eyes would close in heaven. She smelled of spice and orchids. Hearing her steady heartbeat, feeling her warm, smooth hand caressing my hair, I never felt safer or more loved.
Her parties were extraordinary. There were lush floral centerpieces, candlelight, sparkling tableware and cloth napkins. Soft, classical music served as a backdrop to the clatter of cutlery and excited chatter. Nude male slaves of all shapes and sizes formally served, their jiggly bits bouncing in the golden smoky light. The elaborate food was catered by a naked chef in a jaunty apron, his dimpled bare bum peeking cheekily out the back. The fishy scent of caviar, with rich undertones of Boeuf Wellington, mixed with male sweat and excitement. Sometimes it felt like I was in a movie. At first, having some random dude’s flaccid pale junk in my face as he refilled my wine, or whatever, seemed all wrong; but, eventually it became unremarkable.
It was at one such party where I first met Ernie. He looked like a cross between a Keebler Elf and a dirty old man. The dirty pageboy cap was his only visible clothing.
“Hello, m’lady. I am Ernie. At your service.” He bowed and kissed my hand, leaving a slimy residue. His wide eyes twinkled behind bottle cap glasses. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance. Are you into anal fisting?”
I laughed uneasily and didn’t reply. His pungent sweat was stomach turning. His fleshy pink belly wobbled low, concealing whether he wore a thong. He had piercings all over. There were thick, jagged scars on his back.
“Actually, my name isn’t really, Ernie, you know,” he confided, moving closer. I shrunk back when his protruding gelatinous flesh risked brushing my arm. “I’ll tell you my real name, if you want. Very few people know it.” The strong, sour odour of his breath hit my nose.
“Oh, really?” I stepped back, glancing toward Marlena who was laughing huskily at something someone said. How could I politely extricate myself from Ernie?
He moved in again. His fingernails cupping the wine glass were dirty.
“Yes. If you search my real name on the Internet, you’ll learn who I really am. Shall I tell you?” His eyebrows waggled in a way he likely thought was mysterious, his azure eyes intense behind the thick glasses. I shrugged in agreement, more to get it over with, then out of curiosity and when he whispered a name like an evil incantation, it sounded incongruously ordinary. Not quite “John Smith,” but something along those lines. My only thought was: Really? You chose the name Ernie? Like, on purpose? I never bothered looking up his Rumpelstiltskin; an oversight I’d later regret.
During one dinner party, Marlena tried to set me up with a dominant friend. While handsome, his conversational skills were, well, abrupt. Over the soup course he started rapid fire questions about my sexual history, my kinks, how many kids I wanted… The other party guests glanced between us with amusement, as my face got redder and my mumbled vague responses displeased him more and more. Something about hearing him say “nipple clamps” while I slurped bisque made me suppress a giggle. (Needless to say, we weren’t a match.) Later Marlena told me that, in her community, this was a normal way for a dominant to court a submissive at a dinner party.
Slowly, patiently, Mistress started to train me as a submissive. I missed the hug of the heavy collar, stiff black leather on the outside, furry inside, when it was not around my neck. Ernie, always under foot, hovered eagerly, naked and obsequious. Initially, his presence was annoying. He was stealing Marlena’s attention away from me. In my mind it became a competition. Who would be the best, most devoted submissive? He kept winning.
The first time she tied me naked to the St. Andrew’s cross in her living room, the room spun. It was probably fear of the unknown. Mistress gently untied and held me while the nausea passed. My cowardice made me hide my face in her perfumed embrace. I was determined to try again. By this time I’d witnessed a few “scenes,” as she called them. I knew what to expect, to a point. Curiosity had sparked. Also, she wanted this. And I needed to please Marlena. This had become vital.
So, I kept at it and conquered my fear. Since my pain tolerance was laughably low, she’d bring out her heaviest flogs. Surprisingly, even though they looked the scariest, they hurt the least. The slightly tarry scent of tobacco from the leather was soothing. The warm, rough leather pelted my skin. The rhythmic, heavy thuds were comforting, like pats on the back of an infant. Something about being exposed and helpless made me feel powerful. And my Mistress really knew what she was doing. She spread out the blows and rarely left a mark.
My sweet kindergarten sweater sets and bargain underwear were no longer cutting it. Marlena and I went shopping together. Emerging from the bondage and fetish store with plastic bags brimming with stiff leather, cold chainmail and hard studs, I worried that a fellow teacher or worse, a parent, would happen upon me and Mistress Marlena, who was magnificent in her black leather corset and thigh-high boots.
As my wardrobe expanded, I blended into my Mistress’s world better. I checked that the coast was clear before tottering from my car to her apartment in lime green micro miniskirts and ridiculous neon heels. Sometimes, officers sat in a police cruiser in front of her building. Their eyes would follow my laborious progress to Marlena’s lobby. I must have looked like a call girl. Why were they there? What if they inquired where I was going? I tried to keep my worlds apart; but, this was a small town. Word travelled like a virus. I could lose my job. Once, at recess, a colleague popped into my empty classroom unannounced and I shoved the paperback copy of “The Story of O” into my desk drawer, my face reddening.
My early distaste of Ernie faded the more I saw him with Mistress Marlene. His servitude was absolute, pure; his adoration palpable. The way he unobtrusively anticipated her every need was impressive. She often praised him, stroked his face affectionately and offered him as an example of true submission. During scenes with our Mistress, his lumbering walrus movements became graceful, lyrical. I envied how much pain he could take. Whenever confused about how to act, or what to do, I followed Ernie’s example. He became a de facto trainer, always generous with advice, patient with questions. Over the months, we were starting to feel like siblings, working together to serve our Mistress.
Then, out of the blue, he stopped by my home with this unsolicited gift. Lugging the box inside, I set it down and paused, unsure about opening it. I was half expecting some sexual torture device, rather than what was pictured on the outside. Flipping open one side of the lid first, I peeked quickly inside, ready to jump back, in case the contents sprang at me, or exploded, or something.
But, nope. It contained exactly what was on the box. Just a bread maker. There was a booklet included, with recipes. Ernie had highlighted several; maybe they were his favourites. I rolled up my sleeves, deciding to give it a spin.
The next day, savouring a slice of classic French loaf, I got a call from Mistress Marlena.
She spoke in a strangled whisper. “Ernie took his life this morning.” A cold hand suddenly squeezed my esophagus.
“What? Oh my God.” The half-chewed bread tasted like cardboard. I wanted to spit it out.
“I was the one who found him. He gave away all of his possessions before hanging himself.”
I jumped to my feet.
“I’m on my way over.”
The funeral consisted of a small group of us rag-tag misfits. Marlena gave an emotional tribute. I spoke of Ernie’s kindness, his devotion. Afterward, as we consoled each other in studded collars, leather bras and rubber shorts, I saw with a flash of recognition: these were my people. This was my community. Later, at Marlena’s house, I sat holding her hand while she wept. Kleenex was balled in one fist.
She said, “The sad part is I know why Ernie ended his life.”
“Oh. Why is that?”
“He couldn’t take it anymore. After his pedophilia conviction, the police hounded him so badly. They would sit outside this building in a cruiser, waiting for him. You must have seen them.” She pointed an accusing finger at the window.
My mouth dropped. I felt like I’d been punched. The apartment walls were closing in. I couldn’t speak.
She continued. “He legally changed his name a couple of times and was constantly kicked out of his apartments…. Poor guy just couldn’t catch a break. His job options were limited, ‘cause, you know, he had to tell them about his conviction.”
Finally, I recovered my senses. Recoiling, I jerked my hand from hers as though she’d burned me.
“You knew this? And you let me, a teacher, hang out with him?” My hands gestured at myself, throat closing. The room spun. I had a sudden urge to vomit.
Marlena drew back, eyebrows raised. “I thought you knew. Ernie said he told you his real name.”
Kairn Savage lives and plays in Vancouver, BC with her husband, Greg, and cat, Raoul. Nicknamed “Librarian Girl” as a child, she has since transitioned to writing, along with reading, and is now finishing her second novel, The Service. Her work often explores family dynamics, ethical dilemmas, and human nature. Visit her blog: https://savagereadsca.wordpress.com/ for more on these ideas.