I am looking at a photo and remembering the evening I sustained these bruises. Bent over and locked in stocks, the unfamiliar sensation of wood circling my neck and wrists. An audience, standing behind crash barriers, watching as my skirt is pulled up and the flat of his hand hits my arse, and then the cane. The thin line, my knees bending, the pain fireworking across my flesh. A Catherine wheel, a remarkable rocket, stars spiralling across a night sky.

He bends to kiss me and tells me to turn my head and smile for the viewing public. I laugh, and obey, blinded by lights and deafened by pain and pleasure. He hits me again three times and in response I stamp my high- heeled foot three times, like a pony who doesn’t know if she’s happy or angry. I am grinning and shining and wet and filling up to my brim, shouting thanks and yellow and wiggling my bum to the beat and counting off and dancing towards and away and towards and away from the pain, such pain, ah, such pleasure.

I have had enough for the moment. He pulls my skirt down and helps me vertical. I stumble towards him, my mouth an endorphined snarl, my eyelids heavy, and hold his arm like a drunk leaning on a policeman as he walks me to the bar. I drink a plastic glass of water, and he leads me to the private dungeon, where he bends me over a massage table, rubs and then slaps my calming arse afire again.

Ten more minutes, maybe, and when he is done I am beyond all things. When I am steady on my feet we walk back to his truck through the park we went to the night we first met, where we sat beneath a full moon yawning happily and looked over the city, across the harbour and tree line to the hills. That night we talked about druids, family, horses and funerals, laughed and looked at each other and laughed. Well, he said after a lull in the conversation; this is a bit magical, isn’t it?

And then he took me to a moonlit corner and we kissed, and he pulled my dress up and spanked me, there in the lingering warmth of an August night, and bent and blew raspberries on my belly. When I stopped squealing I sighed ‘you make me laugh’ in the way I only ever do to people I will end up loving with all my heart.

It’s still magical. It’s still so magical.

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