I shouldn’t be here. To tell the truth, I don’t know how I got here. I always found it an unnerving thing – to arrive at a destination without witnessing the journey. Tonight is different though. Anxiety fizzes beneath the surface but it isn’t the same kind. There is no heavy ball in my stomach. I’m light. I’m giddy. I shouldn’t be here. But I’m glad I am.
I move my hair out of my face, give my makeup one last look in the overhead mirror, grateful for the false flattery of the street light, and step out of the car – bare leg stretching out, as my slim and perilously high heel finds stable ground between the chippings of the gravel back-street car park. The building, sitting on the corner, is unassuming.
The look of an old pub that only survives with thanks to the routine visits from locals who drank their first alcoholic drink there and will probably drink their last there. The windows offer no preview to the inside. Anyone mistaking it for a pub would surely feel too intimidated to enter. I check the car is locked one last time, tighten the belt of my long grey overcoat around my waist, and walk up to the entrance with all the feigned confidence I can rally.
I’m welcomed by a smartly dressed guy with smatterings of silver in his hair. I place him mid-50s. He smiles warmly, mainly from his eyes which fix on mine. I can hear faint music from inside but can’t make out the song. He leads me out of sight of the main door, extends his arm beyond me and holds open the next door for me to enter. As I step in, the warm air fills my lungs. It’s thicker. It’s heavy. It’s delicious.
I seem to act in auto-pilot then, only half-paying attention, as my ID is taken from me and I’m handed a key and an emerald card with nothing on it but a number embossed in the bottom right corner. All the while, my eyes feasting on the room ahead.
Vast swathes of velvet curtains line the outer walls and frame seating booths. Reproduction art deco lamps sit on the tables hosting guests. Some sit tight against one another, eyes darting about the place, backs straight, their bodies giving away their nervousness, others are animated in conversation, entangled, confident. Any surface not already padded with satin or velvet is mirrored; making the room look bigger and busier than the reality. The lighting gives the impression of looking through a burgundy filter.
It is purposeful, flattering, almost smouldering. In the far corner of the room is a small dance floor with a raised platform and pole with further seating for a keen audience. To the left, beyond the booths, a bronze curtained doorway leading away from the pulse of the music that was now taking cautious residence in my hips. I might have said the décor was a little cliché but then, how would I know?
As a strong bodied woman approaches and offers to give me a tour, I feel someone arrive behind me, pressed against my shoulder, and a male voice, deep and calm, “I’ll take it from here thanks Anne.”
The woman named Anne smiled at someone far above my head, made a weird move, a curtsey? A nod?, pivoted and left. My neck was first to respond. Small bumps rising, causing me to shudder involuntarily.
“You’ll soon warm up.” His mouth was at my ear, his lips brushing it, his breath warm, sending my body into a frenzy. The voice I know so well but in a tone reserved only for me. He moves around my body until he is standing in front of me, smothering any air that might have floated between us. He doesn’t touch me with his hands. He doesn’t need to. And I’m sure by now he knows it.
Every nerve in my body is firing. My long coat, wrapped tightly around me, grazing my ankles and buttoned to my chin is now suffocating. I slowly move my eyes up to his face. Stubbled but tidy, sculpted but not harsh, strong arms. His mouth turned slightly upward, half-smiling, half-smirking.
I find my boldness and force myself to look up at him and into his eyes. Eyes I know so well but with a gaze reserved only for me. I play my best confidence but I have always suspected he sees through the act. If he knows how he disarms me, he never reveals it. We both play a role; two parties in a transaction – a feverish lustful one, but a transaction nonetheless. To fall out of character would cross a line. It would be dangerous.
He takes my hand; fingers locked with mine. It always floors me when he does this. The gentle affection of the act. The anomaly in our arrangement. It’s too tender, too… together. A false promise. I make sure to cherish every second of it.
Leading me past the booths and through the curtained door to the left, he takes me into a room full of lockers. “You leave your coat here.” I couldn’t read whether it was an invitation or instruction but either way, the coat was coming off. There was no else in the room but suddenly I wished there was; to give me just a moment away from the intensity of his eyes on me.
I open the locker door, place the little emerald card in the back and steal a deep breath while I’m turned away from him. I swallow my self-consciousness, summon back my boldness and turn back to face him. He’s leaning against the lockers opposite. Ankles crossed, arms crossed. Head bowed slightly. Eyes piercing me. This was to be the first act in my performance.
There’s no seductive slow dance. No teasing at each button. I matter-of-factly untie my belt, letting it hang at my sides and unfasten each button of my coat in quick succession, never taking my eyes from his. He raises an eyebrow. I push my coat off over my shoulders, turn on the spot, slide it from my arms, fold it and place it in the locker.
Assuming I’ve still got his attention (I know I’ve got his attention), he’s taking in my 5.5 inch black heels, the pvc stockings that stop at the start of my thigh except for the ‘built-in’ suspender belt that frames the top of my legs and disappears under a seriously high-polished latex corset. I wear a delicately laced pair of Brazilian briefs with satin ties at the back.
I turn back to face him, hands casually at my side. The corset stops under my breasts. I’m wearing a bra frame, no cups, just two diamante jewels strategically placed to lay across my nipples, small and very much on. Around my neck is the slightest black collar and hanging from it, a most beautiful leather lead embossed with barely noticeable flowers and vines. He lets out a boyish giggle. It’s my turn to raise an eyebrow.
He composes himself so quickly I think I must have imagined the sound. Just the way he looks at me has me in pieces. I’ve seen that look so many times. In public, it makes me panic. If anyone was to ever witness it, they would surely see the secrets hanging between us. I shouldn’t be here. But neither should he.