I am bent over at the waist. He is behind me. I am wearing purple satin and black mesh knickers, leopard skin shoes, a black satin quarter cup bra with my breasts spilling out, and  the happiest of smiles. He has been caning my tits, and the flesh is pink where they swell out of the cups. My hair is escaping its mass of Kirby grips, dark curls spiralling into my eyes and pins raining onto the floor. I look down at my calves, imagine what my arse looks like in this position, picture the curves and lines emphasised by the high waist and low thigh line of the knickers, like a ’40s cheesecake model.

My centre of gravity is askew like this. I hold myself steady, resting my palms flat above my knees, listening to him moving around just outside my field of vision. There are other couples in the room, tying and being tied, curled like commas on crash mats, bent over benches and suffering blows. There is music and distant laughter from the other rooms, the sound of passing conversation in the corridor. I wait. I look at my reflection in the gilt- framed mirror on the wall.  I know what’s coming.

I bend over, place my hands on my head, and ask for the first stroke. I hear the cane move through the air, whooshing like birds flying overhead. It lands hard on the fleshiest part of my arse, and I rear up with a gasp. My face in the mirror is shocked and outraged, amused then ecstatic. I breathe out, and say ‘one’, recollect myself, bend over again. I ask for the next. And the next. And the next.

He scoops my breasts out of my bra and runs his palms over the flesh, weighs each breast heavy in his hand, plays my nipples between his fingertips. He walks away, rummages in my rucksack, comes back with two little clothespegs. The pegs are made of pine with little pink flowers printed on them, about two thirds as long as my little finger, not as wide as the broad pink- brown radius of my auriolae. These clips pack a disproportionate punch, pain- wise, their tiny jaws clamping possessively against each nipple. My breasts are already sore, and I cry out- it’s verging on too much, but ‘too much’ is a shifting boundary this evening, shooting in and out of sight.

He moves his hand away, leaving the pegs in place, pulls me to him for a slow laughing kiss, and then has me stand at a 90 degree angle to him with my hands on my head. I push my chest out, raise my chin, press my elbows back so the muscles in my shoulders twinge. I know what’s coming.

The cane taps my stinging flesh. I wince with pleasure. It’s not pleasure. It’s pain, it’s definitely pain, but that simple word no longer suffices. Pain hurts. This hurts, it really does, but it’s also beautiful. I can’t take much more, but I don’t want him to stop. I hate it and I adore it, this agonising anaesthetic. He keeps tapping and I grit my teeth.

There is a pause, and he shifts slightly. I close me eyes briefly, inhale my lungs full. There is movement, and the tiny clicking sound of cane hitting pine, and then a burning. He is trying to swipe the peg off my nipple. I laugh, and mumble ‘motherfucker’, quiet enough to escape him hearing, so focussed is he on his task.

The cane flies past my nipple a couple of times. I am scared- my tits hurt so much, and I know that the worst pain always comes the split second after the peg is removed, releasing the compressed flesh. It takes so much willpower not to rear away as he takes aim. He stands, looks me in the eye, steadies his arm. He grins, and mouths ‘this time…’

The peg arcs off across the room to land on a crash mat. I howl, bend forward and wrap my arms around my chest in a panic of pain, feeling the heat of my beaten breasts against my forearm. It feels like shards, like an eruption, like staring into the sun. He folds me into himself and coos into my ear as I whine. We kiss, and the pain recedes, our tongues moving slowly together as he moves his hand between my legs and squeezes possessively, comfortingly.

Now the other one, he says. I squeak, and look him in the eye. He smiles and nods, and I take a pace back, breathe myself back into myself, and place my hands at the back of my head, my thumbs at the nape of my neck.

Such a good girl, he says, and I press my chest into the air towards him with pride.

I am unconcerned. Unconcerned about stretchmarks, the size of my thighs, the nail varnish spilt and running down my calf like blood, the folds of my belly as I bend. Unconcerned about bills, property prices, pension contributions, Brexit, May, Trump, NHS underfunding, fake news, real news, ageing parents, family dysfunction. I am unconcerned about my place in his life, about the unshapeliness of my desires, the untidy, leaky, mulchy mess of my emotions.

I am concerned with nothing but this: me, standing with my hands folded at my nape. Him, standing behind me, wielding a cane. The moments, shrinking and expanding, between my asking and my receiving and my giving thanks. The boundaries between these, rising and falling like a torso in breath. This rhythm, this beautiful dance, him leading, me following, past the ordinary, past the everyday, into a place where for a few delirious minutes nothing matters but love and pain and the two of us.

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