From “Bait and Switch”
By Larry Brooks
– 29 –
The ride back to Amanda’s purported den of iniquity was quiet. At least at first. Maybe it was the bug in my pocket. Maybe it was the lingering taste of asparagus on my tongue, or an emerging sensation of motion sickness as our limo meandered through the streets of this city without a blueprint. We were acting more like a husband and wife on the heels of a social disaster than student and teacher on the cusp of a sexual epiphany.
I sensed she was watching me as we drove.
“Nervous?” she asked as we climbed into the hills.
“That a trick question?”
“No. Wanna talk about it?”
“That’s right, you’re a behavioral therapist. Remind me to ask to see your sheepskin.”
She lowered her voice to a purr as she said, “I must warn you, it’s printed on black leather.”
“Had a hunch.”
“We can go that route, if you want.”
“I’ll pass, thanks.”
She paused. Her eyes were on me like a vinyl catsuit.
Finally she said, “You haven’t had sex since your girlfriend, have you.”
I hadn’t been looking at the lovely Amanda throughout this bouncy dialogue, but I turned to her now.
“Is there anything you don’t know?”
Her smile widened. “No.”
Our eyes remained engaged for a few moments of telling silence, during which we both felt the tables turning.
“I’m not sure what this is about,” I said.
“Coaching. Showing you how to reach into Kelly Scott’s soul and carve your name. Making her fall in love with you.”
I nodded. I’d been avoiding the latter realization, which remained my One Great Regret of this entire sordid affair, rationalized only by the presence of Special Agents Banger and Short on the playbill.
“You assume I don’t know how to get it done,” I said. “Because I’m a man, you think I can’t possibly understand the complex romantic shadings of the mysterious female psyche.”
The sarcastic energy in my voice made her grin again.
“Not when that psyche is twisted into clever little knots like Kelly Scott’s. No. You can’t possibly understand.”
“She’s submissive. So what. Half the world is submissive. You make a living off that half, remember?”
“You’ve read the Beauty books?”
“Anne Rice’s masturbatory phase.”
“Many women regard them as erotic poetry.”
“Good sex is always poetry, with or without the nipple clips.”
“And you think, after reading these books, you know how to make Kelly Scott sing.”
Amanda was shaking her head, her smug grin causing my blood pressure to head towards the red line. Women like this made me crazy, women who brought a sense of genderized fascism to their God-given hormonal superiority. So be it, she was used to reading the simple minds of men like a label on a beer bottle. What really pissed me off was that she was probably right about the frustratingly male tendency to simplify the eternal sexual tango, to regard all things romantic as either a strategy or an obligation, something to be tolerated in order to get laid, something to which men rarely brought passion or creativity beyond flowers and candlelight.
But it was simply a statistical tendency, not an X-chromosome absolute. Amanda the professional dominatrix didn’t know me. Nor did she know that Tracy the amateur dominatrix had already schooled me in the seductive power to be found in embracing the inexplicable with utter abandon. All lovers have their secrets, and if they don’t, chances are it won’t last, they’ll bore each other to death. Tracy had shown me that the human mind was, in fact, the most sensitive and responsive sexual organ in the body, with or without testicles. But, irrespective of the psychology, you had to read that mind first, you had to crawl inside those dark nooks and crannies and listen to the whispered pleadings, which never lie.
“Those books,” I went on, “poetic as they might be, are just fantasies. Nothing more. When you write the script of the stage play, one should understand the difference. Otherwise you’re destined to be embarrassed.”
“Sounds like you’ve been there.”
“More than you know.”
I shifted my position so that I faced her squarely in the back seat, leaning forward as I lowered my voice. She seemed amused by this at first, but moments after I mounted my soapbox her expression went blank.
“Let me tell you what this is about. This is about dancing to what Andrew Lloyd Webber so aptly calls the music of the night. It’s about embracing the fine line that separates fantasy from reality, proactively blurring the edges of that line, seeing where it bends, pausing to give it a lick now and then, blowing a little warm air on it to see what happens.”
Her eyes held mine, rapt with fascination. I inched closer and took her still gloved hand in mine.
“For men that means you wear a pair of killer heels in bed, maybe a leather teddy or a mask, the way you hold a riding crop while he watches. The line moves forward, the dance changes tempo, and the props and the dialogue evolve with it. Suddenly the music is deliciously dark.”
I heard a little moan emanate from her throat, sounding a lot like concurrence. We exchanged wicked little smiles that signaled our journey should resume post haste. I caressed her hand through the fabric of her glove as I spoke, stroking each finger individually.
“But with women, you see, it’s different. It’s about knowing how the entire dance connects to her past, a father who was cold and distant, a mother who smothered and disapproved, a boy in the neighborhood who went too far too fast. It’s about needs, about caressing them, swallowing them whole. It’s about fear, which like some poisons is medicinal and even sweet in moderation. You can’t acknowledge the psychology because it’s like pouring weed killer on caviar, so you pretend it’s all just an inexplicable craving, some dark forbidden pleasure, when you know it’s much more, that it’s the salving of old wounds, the feeding of demons, and that it’s never going away.”
I sensed her breathing becoming deeper. I was singing to the choir, and she liked the melody.
“I should ask to see your sheepskin,” she said.
I put my hand behind her neck and moved so that my face was within inches of hers. My voice was barely a whisper now.
“It’s all about giving while making it seem like taking. It’s about becoming what she wants while convincing her it’s what you want. It’s about understanding that your selfishness is intoxicating for someone who desires to be selfless… about knowing that the keeper cares for his pets, just as the hunter honors his prey… it’s a balancing act between worship and consumption, between possession and obsession… its about absorption, devouring that which inflames your lust.”
Her eyelids were at half-mast, her lips parted. I began tracing them lightly with my fingertips as I pressed onward, my breath hot on her cheeks.
Hell, I was turning myself on.
“In the end it’s simply about intimacy, about wallowing in naked honesty behind the curtain of your worldly competence, about not being alone with your fear and your need. You know about fear, don’t you Amanda, you dole it out like heroin, you take them to edge of terror just to see it in their eyes, and then you take their money along with their gratitude.”
She raised her free hand to my shoulder, her breathing deep and rhythmic, her eyes half-lidded. If I’d have touched her just so she could have climaxed within seconds, but then this was all about teetering there on that edge, delaying the inevitable.
As I went on I put my cheek next to hers, so that my lips touched the folds of her ear.
“You and I know that Kelly Scott wants to lose herself in that desire, in the embrace of the vampire, at the cost of her blood, in the bonds of the cruel master, with the gift of her suffering… the darker the better, because there in his darkness she has no accountability for her own, she is a little girl again, a victim to her own beauty.”
I used my teeth to pull gently at the lobes of her ear.
“I see you understand the poetry part,” she purred.
“It’s so twisted up in explanations, in right and wrong, in shame and guilt, when in fact she just needs one thing… to be desired… to be consumed…”
She let out a little whimper, then whispered, “I’m so fucking wet…”
“She just wants to be kissed… like this…”
I moved my fingers to Amanda’s chin, raising it slightly. I pulled back momentarily so I could engage her eyes before moving back in, brushing my lips lightly over hers, lingering there, using them to grasp her lower lip and knead it, then the upper, brushing them with the tip of my tongue, tasting her, then backing away when I sensed her urgency.
Without breaking contact, I continued whispering through the kiss.
“Here’s what I think, Amanda.”
My tongue went deeper now, but just for a moment.
“To swing the whip as you do, to take your lovers to that dark place and make them quiver for more of you…”
Still holding her jaw with one hand, I used the other to suddenly grip a nice fistful of her hair, pulling it down firmly in order to raise her surprised face to mine. Not enough to hurt her, but enough to show that I could.
There it was again. It was all about context. A little post-graduate contextual seminar for the teacher herself.
This was getting to be fun. I continued.
“You have to know that place yourself, you have to know the ecstasy in willingly handing over your will and even your pain to a dark lover, one who licks and savors your tears while he wraps you in a protective embrace.”
“Oh my…” was all she said.
“How am I doin’ here, Mistress Amanda?”
I kissed her deeply, not allowing an answer. Then I pulled back to more casual contact, again whispering through playfully jousting lips. I had her on the ropes, if not in them, and it was time for the T.K.O.
“I’ll know what Kelly Scott needs in the very moment she needs it, and I’ll give it to her in ways she’s never imagined, ways that transcend books, transcend imagination. She wants a dark prince of passion, then that’s what she’ll get. Because of what I know about her, which is a distinct advantage I do admit, I’ll plant those nasty little seeds from the first kiss and go from there.”
Then I kissed her deeply once again, releasing my hold on her hair in favor of a more traditional embrace, which she returned with squirming enthusiasm.
“Take me home, my teacher,” she said.
I pulled away. “I don’t think so.”
Immediately her expression flipped from drug-like lust to bitch-like indignation.
“I’m not going to sleep with you, Amanda. Tell me what else I need to know, any specifics required to set the stage, but that’s it. Mission accomplished, lesson over. No nookie, no spanking, no enema, whatever it is you do.”
I could tell she was fending off an emotion she hadn’t confronted in a long, long time. Her smile was as contrived and bold as it was unconvincing.
“Something I said?”
“No. Something I said. To myself.”
“Well, I’m sure it’s every bit as profound as what I just heard. And just as full of shit.”
I shot her my most sincere expression of regret.
“Listen, I’m not in this to get laid. And I’m not here because of you. You’re beautiful, you’re sophisticated, and you take money from men who want to lick your footwear. I’m sorry, I’m just not gonna go there.”
She was nodding now, already having composed her response, reassuring herself that this was all my problem, that her seductive powers were in full glorious tact after all.
“Wolf fucking Schmitt, boy scout. How special.”
“Really, it’s nothing personal. Never is in our business.”
“Our business? Because the way I see it, you’re taking a big old shit-pile of money to prey upon the weakness of your particular client. But unlike me, you’re going to leave her in a heap of suicidal tears as you slither back to wherever it is you came from.”
“Well stated. You’re pretty good at this humiliation thing.”
“You make me want to puke.”
“Have at it. They’re not my shoes.”
She tapped on the glass, which lowered in response. She instructed the driver, who still wore that inexplicable hat, to drop her off, then take me back to the helicopter before it turned back into a pumpkin.
She left the car without another word, or even a glance back. Then again, I wasn’t looking, just in case.
The woman her wealthy clients referred to as Mistress Amanda stood at a window looking out over the great city, watching the limo pull away. When the taillights disappeared she punched a number into a phone, then put it to her ear and waited.
It was a recording, which was according to plan.
“He’s ready,” she said. “And by the way, when this is over, send him back to me, preferably in one piece. Consider it a tip.”