He always comes at seven, on Tuesdays and Thursdays—unless he has to attend a function with his wife. Occasionally, when she’s out of town, he telephones and we arrange another meeting. It’s always at my home. We can never go out together. He’s too well known. Tuesday is his wife’s bridge night, and Thursday she spends with the daughter and grandchildren from her former marriage. They have no children together.
I suppose people would think me foolish to settle for just a two or three nights weekly relationship. Others would condemn me for coming between a man and his wife. But actually I came into his life before her. We’ve been together for fifteen years, but they have only been married for seven years. He tells me that he doesn’t love her—that they are together for business reasons—but I expect that is what most men tell their mistresses.
He also says that they no longer have sex—don’t in fact even share a bedroom. I have to take his word for that, as I’ve never visited their home. I’ve seen them out together, and it’s true that I never witness any sign of affection or love between them. They frequently stand apart, and never give each other secret looks as lovers often do. She’s heavily involved in charity work and he accompanies her to functions as her escort.
Yes, its true that he pays me, so I know what that makes me in the eyes of the world. But I swear I’ve never had sex for money with anyone else my whole life. He pays the rent on my apartment and I have an allowance from him that enables me to live without working. My whole existence consists of preparing for him and being with him.
His sexual needs are great. He tells me that I’m the only one who understands this, and who can provide for those needs. Maybe so. It’s possible that he visits other people as well as me, but I don’t think so. He’s a wealthy man, but even so, paying for two mistresses in London would be exorbitant. Besides, he’s so well known that he would find it difficult to keep the secret. It’s hard enough keeping my existence hidden.
He’s coming this evening. I must hurry or he’ll punish me for not being ready. Of course he’ll punish me anyway, for something, so it hardly matters if I add to the score. He knows I crave his firm hand and my needs are as strong as his own. I climb out of the bathtub and put on a robe and a towel around my wet hair. There will be no need to dress. He’ll only rip my clothes off and I can’t afford to keep buying new ones.
I dry my hair in my bedroom, sitting in front of the dressing table mirror. He loves my chestnut coloured hair, which is long and thick and a little wild. He calls it gypsy hair. My mother used to hate brushing the tangles from it and tried to persuade me to have it cut short. But I resisted. He once told me that if I were to cut my hair, he would lock me in a room and not let me leave until my hair was long again.
I must hurry. He’ll be here in five minutes. I dab a single spot of perfume on my throat. He doesn’t like me heavily perfumed. The faint small of gardenias hits my nose. It reminds me of a plant he bought me many years ago, the fragrance from which was an ever-present reminder of him. Sadly it only survived for a few months. I wasn’t at all green-fingered. He never bought me another one, but the following year gave me the perfume, which he replaces from time to time.
I take my violin from its case. I no longer play in public. He forbids it. He is the only one who listens to my music now. He sends me a text the day before his visit, telling me what I must play for him the following day. Today it is to be Chopin, Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor. It’s one of my favourites, but I find it unbearably sad—mournful even. I never question him. His choice is final.
One minute before his arrival I hear the single chime from the entrance downstairs. I’ve no need to let him in. He has his own key. The bell is my one-minute warning before performance time. I raise the violin to my chin. My arm is poised with the bow. The second I hear the key in the lock I begin to play. Naked. In the middle of the room. I close my eyes. All as instructed.
I hear the door open and then close, but the carpet muffles any further noise as he advances into the room. My senses are on the edge. My whole body is primed. I tremble with anticipation.
The routine is always the same. He comes into the room and stands a few feet away from me, watching me. I can’t see, but I imagine him to be standing in a dark suit, immaculate as always. He probably has his legs slightly apart and arms folded, with one hand supporting his chin, as he listens to the music. He stands silently like that for a minute or so. I must not speak or open my eyes. I must not stop playing until he grants permission.
“Open your eyes.”
I blink against the light as the late sun, about to set, floods the room. He is standing just as I imagined him, wearing his dark, pinstripe suit with a crisp white shirt and a pale yellow tie. I continue playing. I know better than to stop. He advances and walks around me, observing me from every angle. I feel his warm hand running down my back and over the curve of my bottom. He loves that part of me. His hand remains for a few seconds, gently stroking my skin, before he returns to my front.
I know he wants to beat me, but so far I’ve given him no cause. I deliberately play a false note and I see the twitch of his lip. He knows I want it as much as him. He walks to the mantelpiece where I earlier placed the cane, a slender piece of willow. I continue to play.
The first stroke is a sting across the middle of my bottom, both cheeks. I concentrate hard so as not to interrupt my playing. The next stroke is slightly harder, in the same place. I breathe in sharply as a spasm of excitement shoots through my groin. I know that after just two strokes I’m already wet. He walks around me, striking where he pleases as I desperately try not to miss a note. A particularly hard stroke takes my breath away. From time to time, between strokes, he bends and places a kiss on my shoulder.
“You are so beautiful.”
Then as if to make me pay for the tender words, he will strike me even harder. We follow the same pattern again and again, but neither of us ever tire of it. He has a deep need to inflict pain, and I have a deep need to receive it. We are two sides of the same coin.
I hear a noise behind me. An unusual noise. It sounds like someone gargling. Then comes an almighty thud and I turn instantly. He’s lying on the floor, eyes still open, but his lips are blue and he doesn’t appear to be breathing. I stop playing instantly and drop to my knees beside him. For a moment I’m paralysed from the shock. But I’ve had strict instructions from him for such an event.
He told me once, “I know I am on limited time. My heart is hanging on a delicate thread and could stop at any moment. If it happens while I’m with you, you must not, under any circumstances, call for an ambulance. Just call my wife. She will know what to do.”
I’d promised faithfully, even though my every instinct was to call for help and start pressing on his chest. I reached for the phone and dialled her number. Thankfully she was home.
“It’s me. I…I think he’s gone.”
There was a pause at the other end before she responded.
“Don’t do anything. Leave him where he is. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
I replaced the phone and sat on the sofa, the violin by my side. His body was just a few feet away. His face looked relaxed. The few faint lines that had been around his eyes and mouth had gone. He looked younger than his fifty one years. I was still naked. It didn’t even cross my mind to dress. Perhaps I was in shock.
The downstairs doorbell rang and I got up to press the button to open the front door. This would be my last moment alone with him. I knelt down by his side. Bending over him I kissed him gently on the lips and murmured to him.
“Goodbye, my darling. We had a wonderful time didn’t we? I’m glad you were with me, doing what we both enjoyed, when it happened.”
The bell on the apartment door went. I stood and walked to let her in. I made no attempt to hide my body with its stripes, already turning a little blue. Let her see what I was to him. I didn’t care.
When I opened the door we looked at each other for a few seconds before I stood aside to let her in. She seemed a little older than when I’d last seen her, but was still very attractive. She had never knowingly seen me before, although I had once attended the ballet and spotted them across the room.
She walked over to where her husband lay, going down on to her knees to check for a pulse; perhaps to satisfy herself that he really had gone. She turned to look at me, probably taking note of the livid stripes over my body.
“I can see what he had been doing when he had the heart attack. You know that he didn’t want resuscitating, don’t you?”
“Yes, he told me. He made me promise.”
“He knew it was just a matter of time. There was nothing they could do for him. He would have hated old age anyway.”
She stood up. “Now my dear we must call for an ambulance, or they will accuse us of deliberately withholding help. You must get dressed. Thankfully he is still fully clothed.”
She picked up the cane from the floor. “Take this and hide it in your bedroom. When the ambulance arrives we must tell them that my husband and I are friends of yours. We came to visit you and he collapsed and died. There is no reason for them to suspect anything. My husband wasn’t ashamed of his habits, but we don’t want the indignity of his picture being on the front page of the gutter press, do we?”
I nodded and did as she suggested. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be thought of as one of her husband’s habits, but I understood her wish to preserve his dignity. Being on the front page of the paper didn’t worry me in the slightest. I would never apologise for my lifestyle, but I understood about her need to protect his image.
In less than an hour the ambulance had been and gone, followed by the undertaker’s hearse. It was difficult seeing him carried away on a trolley, encased in a body bag, but I held myself together. His wife took care of everything.
After they had left she sat down beside me on the sofa. I was in awe of how clinically efficient she had been, while I was on the verge of tears.
“You must hate me, and yet you’re so calm.”
She put her hand on my shoulder. “I don’t hate you in the slightest. I knew all about you. My husband told me everything before we were married. Ours was a marriage of convenience. My sexual tastes lie far away from anything he could provide.”
I must have looked very surprised, for she carried on talking. “I was glad he had you. It would have been very lonely for him otherwise. He couldn’t risk going to—you know—professionals, for this sort of behaviour. There was always the danger of blackmail and bad publicity.”
“Oh,” was all I could say. All the years I had known him, and he never told me this. What had he told her about me? It was as though she was reading my mind.
“I know you weren’t doing this for the money—well not entirely, anyway. I know that what he gave you was something you craved from him. Am I right?”
I nodded. The tears began to flow down my cheeks. How would I manage without him? She put her arm around my shoulder and drew me towards her, holding me tight while I cried for the loss of her husband.
When I’d finished she looked down at my tearstained face for several seconds. Time stood still. She bent her head and kissed me gently on the lips. I didn’t pull away. I felt secure and comforted. She kissed me again, and this time I kissed her back.
“Don’t worry, my dear. I’ll take care of you. I’ll give you what you need.” I nodded and relaxed into her warm embrace.
Here is a link to the Chopin piece if you would like to listen.