By Lisabet Sarai
She should throw them away. After all, she’s married now, and a mother twice over. It’s crazy —unhealthy, even—to hold on to those tattered remnants of her past. If Ben ever found them, she knows he’d be deeply hurt.
Not that there are secrets between them, not really. She’s told Ben about her all-too-brief exploration of her submissive nature, at least in general terms. He doesn’t want to know more. The notion that she ever enjoyed being beaten or bound or “forced” into lewd actions makes him terribly uncomfortable. To be faced with evidence of her joyful depravity would not only disgust him, but also make him feel inadequate. Even after a dozen years together, her husband worries that he’s too vanilla to satisfy her. The nugget of truth in that worry is her private shame.
So she hides the letters between the pages of the New Testament her born-again mother gave her as a gift so many years before. Atheist that he is, Ben won’t touch that volume. She tells herself she’s protecting him from pain. The irony of this strategy isn’t lost on her. She remembers her mother’s shrill voice, naming her as “spawn of the Devil” because of her sexual adventures—the ones Mom somehow found out about, that didn’t include any kink.
Those well-worn epistles wait for her, stashed among St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and the Romans. She might not take them out for weeks, but she’s always aware of their existence, a sweet temptation calling to her from the bookshelf. Just a quick look. What harm could it do?
She works from home, transcribing medical records for an insurance company. It’s deadly dull, but pays pretty well. She can make her own schedule, and be there when the boys return from school. Mornings, though, after the kids are on the bus and Ben has left for the office—those are the hardest times. She strikes bargains with her conscience. Three more cases, then she’ll take ten minutes. Reread one letter, or at most two.
An hour later she finds herself on the floor, surrounded by dog-eared envelopes and sheets of paper dense with his firm script, her eyes and her sex both moist.
At this point, she doesn’t really read the letters so much as caress them. She knows every word by heart. Still, some of them leap from the page, echoing in that rich, dark voice he employed with such skill.
He’d used these letters to seduce her, months before they’d even touched. Somehow he knew—he always knew—what she craved. After he’d dropped out of grad school and moved across the country, she’d been the first to write, a chatty, chummy letter with only the barest hint of flirtation. How had they progressed to discussing spanking, hot wax and nipple clamps? Had she been seeking that all along?
After their first incandescent encounters, the correspondence had continued, bridging the miles between them, more thrilling and raw than ever.
It never occurred to me that you’d refuse anything I asked.
The letters rekindle that wondrous, terrifying yearning. Once again she’s the innocent, eager creature he’d somehow recognized, pliant and brave, hungry to taste his power. He’d shaped her sexual self like some sculptor of the flesh. Malleable, he’d called her. Back then, his mocking superiority annoyed her slightly. Now it makes her proud. She misses that woman, wonders if any trace of her still exists.
After all these years, she doesn’t really remember the physical pleasure, but she can summon the breathless excitement of surrender simply by opening an envelope, without reading a single line. She’s never been more alive than when she lay beneath him or knelt before him, ready to accept whatever he felt inclined to bestow. That was reality, sparking into existence once again as she scans the pages. It’s her current existence, full of mundane domestic joys and ordinary comforts, that feels like a dream.
He’s married as well at this point, to a kinky girl a dozen years younger whom he met at a munch. They exchange vanilla birthday and Christmas cards, two old friends with a secret history. She’s glad he’s not her husband. He’s critical and difficult, a perfectionist. She’s not sure she could give him what he needs now. But she did, back then. She never doubts that.
With a sigh, she slips the brittle pages back into their envelopes. A few are torn already. How many years will it be before they finally crumble to dust? Will she still be re-reading his words, re-living their past connection, when she’s a grandmother? It’s possible. She’s not ready to relinquish the letters yet, though her lack of total honesty gnaws at her. They are all that remains of the gloriously liberated, utterly devoted slave she once was.