Taking Cara's BusinessbySWinters©
I stand and watch her walk toward me. Her fingers are cool and dry as she places the collar around my neck, nimble as they buckle it in the back, the leather touching my skin all the way around, not tight, only touching. I feel her breath stir my hair.
A snort of laughter escapes me and I stifle it quickly. She pauses, her hands still on the buckle, and leans around to look at my face. "Yes?" she inquires, lifting an eyebrow, that same slight half-smile barely curving her perfect dark lipsticked lips.
I school my face and take a deep breath. "Nothing. Sorry."
I take another deep breath and will myself not to laugh. Come on, Cara, she's a professional, let her do her thing. Don't be an ass.
Slowly she withdraws her hands and steps in front of me. The smile is gone now, vanished as though it never existed. "What?" she asks me. Her eyes are so green they just kill me. I feel like such an asshole. I focus on her eyes, forcing my mind away from the ridiculous absurdity of the leather around my neck, stop it, don't go there, stop it, a collar, are you kidding me? beat me, whip me, make me write bad checks! lick my boots, you little worm! and a second, loud, hopelessly unsexy snort bursts forth again, I can't help it.
"I'm sorry," I manage just before I dissolve completely into gales of laughter, real, deep, hilarious, rib-aching, stitch-inducing belly laughter pouring out of me. I lean forward, hands on my knees, taking a deep breath and holding it. Stop it, stop it now. I look up at her gorgeous face, sculpted out of some other-worldly substance, motionless, unresponsive, unblinking, and oh gods help me I'm laughing again, stop it! Dammit! Oh.
Oh. I gasp. Oh. Heave one last shuddering breath. I straighten up.
"It's ok now, I'm good. I'm sorry. OK. All done. I'm good." I steady my breathing and smile up at her, with what I hope is a suitably apologetic and contrite and cooperative expression.
Not a flicker of anything crosses her features. She continues gazing down at me.
She's not so very much taller than I, just an inch or two, really, but those unbelievable stiletto heels that would cripple me if I even thought too long about wearing them have her properly towering over me. She's close enough that I have to tip my head back to keep looking in her eyes and the elongation of my airway helps me get a good purchase as I sit firmly on the laughter, my control returning to me, feeling stronger now, much better, allowing my smile to fade as I return her gaze, better now, oh much better, I can do this, I can really do this.
"What?" she asks again, in exactly the same tone, exactly the same inflection as before. Her eyes never move.
"Nothing, it's fine. I'm ready now," and I am so pleased with myself as I hear how steady my voice is, not the slightest little trickle of laughter leaking through now. Back in control. Yes!
The faintest hint of a line appears between those impossible eyes. Oh crap, I've hurt her feelings and offended her professional pride and now she's pissed. Shit, Cara, you could fuck up a self-starting coffee maker.
"I'm really sorry. I have a little trouble focusing sometimes, just at the beginning, this is brand-new to me, but I'm better now. I'll do better, really. I just—you know, I… my sense of humor is kind of … unruly, and childish sometimes, I know, it's stupid—"
Her silence is beginning to operate like a vacuum, sucking more and more words out of me even as the seed of awareness forms in the darkest backest recesses of my brain that I should really stop talking—
"—you know, too many dumb—movies, I guess, with the stupid caricatures," brilliant, idiot! mock her profession, that's a super plan—"I mean, just ignorance, people making stupid… images, unrealistic images, and I'm sorry but I'm OK now, and I'm really sorry I laughed," just shut up, dumbass, what is wrong with you? "and I won't do it again, I mean… I won't do it anymore, now… just…" my voice cuts out like a CD on pause, then my lungs remember to exhale and I go on with absolutely zero input from my brain, "it won't happen again. Sorry." I stop. "I didn't mean anything." I add. "By it. I didn't… you know. So," I say, fresh and brisk and all business, "so, let's… let's go. I'm ready." I nod reassuringly at her. "All set. All… all good… now…"
Silence pools around me as I finally dry up. It expands, spreading out around my feet until it fills the room. Still she stands, merely looking at me, not moving. How can she hold herself so steady without blinking for so long? Don't her eyes start to sting? Has that line above the bridge of her nose deepened slightly? Is it just my imagination? Am I just more aware of it now, now that my babbling has ceased and there's no other sensory input?
My chest suddenly feels funny. Not the kind of funny like before. I'm not tempted to laugh again. That crisis has passed. What is that? Why does my chest feel like… like it's almost… not itching, exactly, but … tickling? on the inside?
… my exhale takes me by surprise. I breathe. What the—why am I forgetting to breathe?
"Cara," my name inside this stranger's voice is bewildering to me, and for a moment I am disoriented and lost and I can't understand how I came to be here and how she knows my name.
"… yes?" I am watching her now, brain racing. How do I help her get us back on track? I really don't have any idea how the mechanics of this operate, how one goes about restoring a Domme's authority after laughing one's ass off at her.
"Cara," she says my name again, as though repeating a cue for me. I'm supposed to know what to do now… but I don't, I mean I really, really don't. "Cara, answer me."
Oh, man, we don't want to go back there, I think. Come on, I'm behaving now. Let it go, sweetie, let's move forward, what do you say?
"Cara. Answer me."
The unexpected shhhhhinggggg of cold drawn steel in her voice snaps my head up. Ohhhh, yes, I purr silently, that's more like it. Mmm, yeah. I run my widening eyes over her gorgeous form. Desire sends a slim finger of dizziness rising rapidly from my belly to my brain and instinctively I check that my knees aren't locked. I breathe deeply and wait for my head to clear. I shift my weight slightly.
"Don't move," her voice cracks out like a shot. Not loud, no louder than she's spoken since I arrived. But its intensity immobilizes me. She goes on without missing a beat, "just listen."
I stand there. I wait for whatever it is that she will say to me. I will listen, yes, of course I will listen, I owe her that, it's the least I can do after… after behaving like such an imbecile. Yes, I'm listening, I don't speak, I at least know better than that, I listen, I'm listening, straining to tell her I'm listening with my ears, my body, my eyes on hers, she still hasn't blinked, how is that possible? I'm blinking like crazy, I must look like I'm having a petit mal seizure, my eyes are stinging and dry and I'm blinking up at her, willing her to feel how hard I'm listening.
Breathing. Motionless. The room is comfortably cool. I don't feel hot. Sweat has formed in the little divet at the bottom of my spine, there where my lower back ends and the swell of my hips begins. It pools, there in the small hollow, beneath the soft waistband of my summer skirt, swelling and rising and finally spilling over to run down, finding the crack of my ass and sliding secretly across the soft skin there, deep in the cleft, the muscles clenching in involuntary reaction.
Only the slightest catch in my breath. I only feel it, I don't hear it. I have made no sound.
She can't have heard it. There was nothing to hear.
No. Nothing. My ears are straining in the silence. If there had been a sound I would have heard it, and I'm certain I didn't. My muscles clench again, convulsively, harder this time. I will myself not to move.
Her voice is low and smooth this time, the folds of my mind like warm butter that she slides into with terrifying ease and precision.
"What do you hear?"
Wildly, I cast about as though my ears are antennae, long extending feelers that can search and find something, anything that I can bring back and give her, show her. I listen. I breathe, still on guard against the dizziness that I'm afraid will return.
My voice answers her, not even bothering to check with me first.
She nods. Once. "What else?"
The silence closes over our spoken words like water over the head of a drowning swimmer.
"The air… the air-conditioner. Air moving through the vents, into the room."
Again she nods, once. "What else?"
"Traffic. A truck… down the street?"
Nod. "What else?"
A long, long moment. "The clock. On the wall."
Nod. Slower, this time. "Good." Her voice has not changed. Her expression is exactly the same. I feel the faintest warmth, as though a gossamer-thin layer of palest pink has laid itself over the bones underneath the skin and muscles of my face, the very barest suggestion of flush at this, the first word of something akin to approval since I laid eyes on her.
The sound of the clock—snick, snick, snick—keeps its beat. Unchanging. Relentless. Like her. No louder, no softer, no faster, no slower, even and inexorable. Wonder surrounds me for a moment and I gaze in rapt fascination at the thought that I have only just now become aware of this sound. It's so clear, so present. Snick. Snick. Snick. How could I not have heard it until now? How could I not have felt it, gently tapping, tapping, against my eardrum?
"That sound… Cara," my name again, spoken as if the syllables belonged to her, as if all my life they had been only borrowed from her voice, "Cara, that sound… is the sound of your money, falling drop by drop into my bank account."
Amusement touches her eyes in the first alteration I've seen in her in what feels like a very, very long time. Her lips purse slightly. "It's your dime, Cara. So you can, if you choose, continue to—humor me" and her voice, her eyes, her entire being leave no doubt that she is not humored—faintly amused, perhaps, but not at all humored—and she goes on, "you can, if you wish, continue just as you have been, until our time runs out.
"Or you can stop this nonsense, show some courage, and do as you promised."
What promise? Startled now, I rack my brains.
"We had a deal, you and I. You committed to something, before we began."
To what? What did I commit to, other than the fee, paid in advance?
"Remember?" Her voice has deepened, the whisper of amusement gone now and replaced by… something. Something else. Something that for some reason raises my flight awareness, makes my scalp draw suddenly tight and my ears feel hyper-sensitive and my heart ready itself to begin pounding, hard, for dear life, any moment…
"I told you that the only thing I demand, the one thing I required from you," breathing is beginning to become difficult as she holds my gaze locked in hers, "is that you be…" there is not enough air, "… honest."
I'm breathing, I am, drawing down deep for my breath and there's nothing there, nothing, I can't get—only snatches, droplets, random wisps of oxygen into my helpless lungs—what is happening? What—
"Look at me, Cara."
If I didn't know it was physiologically impossible, I would swear that my heart stopped right then. My heart, my lungs, the blood in my veins, my liver and kidneys and every other system and organ and cell in my body arrested, suspended, held up and dangling by a single shining strand that she has raised, easy and effortless, between her finger and thumb, watching me in detached interest as I turn slowly, off the ground, swaying slightly in the invisibly shifting currents of the air I can no longer feel.
I have to breathe. Have to. I will die if I don't manage to feed my oxygen-starved body something, anything, and I try, desperately sucking in what I know must be air all around us, gulping in through my open mouth, gulping air like a fish on sand and it is sand that is in my mouth now, down my dry throat and I choke on the sand rushing into my trachea, my lungs, gasping for air, choking again, water running from my eyes, frantically sucking in air that turns yet again to sand only to cough it out, my lungs rejecting the unbreathable substance, coughing, blind, fighting off the panic.
Through my struggling I hear her heels against the hardwood floor as she walks away and returns after a moment, holding a tumbler of water that she has poured from a pitcher on the sideboard across the room. I reach for the water like a lover and she pulls it away, just out of my reach as my shaking hands follow it blindly for a moment. I cannot even see clearly. I feel the smooth comfort of the glass gently rest against my lower lip and her hand at the base of my skull, cradling my head as the water slowly eases into my mouth and tentatively touches the back of my throat and I cough, swallowing, coughing. Her hand supports my head and another blessed bit of water runs softly over my tongue and this time I hold it there a moment, going slow, and I swallow a few drops without choking. A little more, this time, just a little more as my body remembers how to swallow.
Her voice flows into my ear, "That's it. Good girl. Another sip, now." I swallow, grateful, swallowing more, more.
The tumbler disappears from my mouth and her hands and voice are all around me, "Breathe. Through your nose. Close your mouth, swallow, breathe in through your nose, Cara, breathe out now, good. All the way out. Hold. In through your nose, yes, like that, now hold. And out. Slowly. Good girl."
As my lungs begin to slow, I feel her bringing the water back to me and her hand, so gently, tipping my head back just a little further so I can drink from the now half-empty glass. My eyes close with relief and I breathe and my body gives up some of the tension it has been wrapped around, and for a moment I rest my head in her hand.
In that moment, she breaks me before I even know what has happened.
My eyes fly open in terror and I straighten up, lifting my head out of her hand, holding, holding myself, still and hard on the outside as I rush to fortify the barricades within. All the while holding myself perfectly, perfectly still and looking at the wall opposite me, the wall that holds the door through which I entered her room. She is silent beside me for a moment, and then turns away from me and walks toward the corner behind us. I follow her progress out of the corner of my eye, angling my head to see the stiletto heels slow and turn as she sets the water down on a little table at one end of the loveseat. She settles herself at the other end, and smoothes her hand over the cushion in a gesture that draws me reflexively in and I have taken three or four steps, more than half the distance between us, before I stop myself.
I cannot look at her.
"Come sit," she says. It is not a request, exactly, but it is not a command. It is… an invitation. An offer, an extension of… something I cannot name. Still afraid, I hesitate, and I try, I try to look at her, to see what she is thinking, to assess this bewildering foreign landscape, I try to look, just look.
I can't. I stand, caught in hesitation, unable to choose a direction.
Her voice reaches me across the void.
"It's ok. Cara, it's ok. It's all right, Cara." Her hand continues to stroke the cushion, softly, steadily, as though comforting a frightened child. Back and forth, stroking, gentling, around and slowly around again. "Come on. It's all right."
Unable, still unable to look at her, I watch her hand on the cushion lift up as I step closer, coming to rest on the back of the loveseat as I slowly come to her and sit, still tense, on the edge of the cushion, leaning forward, forearms on my knees, eyes on my fingers laced tightly together.
"The water is on the table next to you," she says gently.
I nod. I know where the water is. I know she has put it there for me.
"Cara. Cara, look at me."
I lift my head and I cannot do it. I concentrate, hard, breaking down the task into incremental steps, the way I learned to do with any daunting challenge. I am a problem-solver, a mess-fixer, an analyze-and-plan expert: Step one, breathe in; step two, turn your chin to the left as you breathe out; step three, breathe in; step four, raise your eyes to her face as you breathe out. That's all there is to it. Cake. Just do one thing at a time. One thing, then the next thing, then the next, until you're there.
It's easy, and I cannot do it. My fingers itch beneath my gaze.
My cheek itches beneath her gaze.
This was supposed to be fun, the thought swirling and floating in the air around me like an elusive and annoying fluff of cat hair. I watch it, irrationally angry at its insistent, weightless, careless dance. Why can't she just do the Domme thing? Why is she making it so hard?
She's not. You are, the infuriatingly rational part of my mind speaks. You laughed at her, and when she asked you why, you freaked out like a little bitch. This is all you, it goes on, prissily haughty.
Shut up, I reply to myself.
"Cara." My eyes close, briefly, then open again. My fingers are still there, right where I left them. "Cara, do you know why you're feeling this way?"
I shake my head. I wish I could answer her. I wish I could say, "no, I don't," speaking aloud, like an adult, like a person with some notion of manners and civilized social exchange. But I can't. So I shake my head.
"Because this is new, that's why. That's all. This is brand-new to you. You said it yourself. And Cara, I know that. I knew that going in. You told me, remember? When we first spoke, on the telephone," she always says that, telephone, never just phone, it's a funny thing, I wonder if I ever say that, I think I almost always say phone, don't I?
"… where are you? Cara, where did you go? It's all right, just tell me. Where did you go, just now?"
"Telephone," I mumble. I clear my throat, trying to do it silently. "You always say, 'telephone'…" My voice sounds odd to me, a soft rasp like a blues singer.
"Water?" she reminds me. "Telephone…" she says, like she's tasting the word, running her tongue over it to see if it's familiar. I glance over at the tumbler to my right, standing patiently as a watchman. Water. Means I have to untangle my fingers, unclench my hands. I take a breath and slowly peel my fingers apart from each other, turning away from her to hide the process, the damp skin of my hands and the trembling that goes clear up to my wrists. I take the glass in both hands and drink a bit. I turn and face straight ahead once more, the glass in my two hands, feeling the dependable, unyielding sides of the vessel containing and protecting and holding the formless liquid up, giving it shape and location and a place to be, itself and still and whole.
"Telephone," she says, again, and I hear the smile in her voice. "Yes, I suppose I do. Do you like that? That I say 'telephone,' rather than 'phone'?"
"Yes," I answer her, with what would be surprise if I were not so emotionally winded. An odd sensation rises around my mouth. I realize I am smiling. "I do like it," the words falling so easily from me that I forget anything else for a moment.
"That's nice to hear," she says, and the warmth in her voice rises into my face, from my chin and under my jaw up to my cheeks, spreading across my nose and filling my forehead all the way up to where my hairline begins, and she says to me, "Let's go for a walk," standing and reaching over to where my jacket hangs on the coat-tree.