Swallowtail Ch. 13byktmccoll©
Swallowtail is a novel that traces the narrator's gradual acceptance of submission.
Previously: The narrator has accepted Dex as his dom. In this final chapter, the narrator learns more of his dom and is shared with her former lover.
(For those who have read "Outsourced" 1 and 2, this chapter features the character, Naima.)
"I've invited a friend over for dinner for Friday. Is that okay?"
We're lying in bed on a Sunday afternoon and the late summer breezes are wafting into the bedroom, cooling the sweat that films our bodies. The curtains are open and riffle gently. Dex prefers it that way, despite or perhaps because of the danger of being spied in flagrante by the hikers who might be passing by on their way to the edge of the escarpment to watch the turkey vultures that circle endlessly on the thermals. I don't mind either. I like watching her and doing so in natural light is a joy. If that means having the windows wide open, so be it.
It has been almost a year since we met one October night in the art gallery. It has been a strange and exciting journey. At my age, you don't expect much in the way of change. You tend to think of yourself as being more or less set in your ways and that any change would be glacial. But the year has seen me somehow go from cynical cad to faithful sub. It has seen the introduction of bondage and impact play and the exploration of dominance and submission.
Dex said a month ago that she loved me. I'd been flummoxed. I hadn't anticipated that love could blossom out of the shifting soil of our relationship. I couldn't imagine how genuine love could flourish in a heart intent on domination. It took me a while to reciprocate the sentiment, though I knew it to be true. I explained to her, or tried to, that I couldn't easily grasp how I could love someone I was submissive to. She replied that women had been doing it for millennia.
She's wise, this one. But then, I've known that for a while.
I told her then that I loved her too.
And now, lying here with the dom I love, she's asking for my permission. A month or two ago I would have been surprised by Dex's question. A month ago, Dex seldom mentioned her friends to me and I would have assumed that any circle thereof had to be vanishingly small. Now I know that she does indeed have friends, individuals who are accomplished and personable and balanced, characteristics that I, in my less charitable moments, would have found difficult to apply to Dex or anyone of the lifestyle that we share. And now she has another friend coming out of the woodwork. My dear mistress appears to have a veritable abundance of friends.
I roll over onto my side and place my hand just beneath a breast. Her eyes are closed and the corners of her mouth quirk up in a smile. Dex wears less makeup these days, seemingly less intent on that barrier of dark goth that she hid behind when we first met. I prefer the more natural look. It suits her better, highlighting rather than masking her beauty, making her look more confident and less other. The piercings are still there through. She said, months ago, that they were a sign of ownership. That she owned her body. With piercings on her face and tongue, nipples and labia, there is no doubt that she is the mistress of her domain.
"Sure," I say.
I trace the swallowtail tattoo on her lower abdomen. She squirms and says that it tickles. I don't stop. The tattoo is so realistic that it always surprises me that I don't feel the delicate structure of the wings beneath my fingers.
"Who is this friend? Someone from the party?"
"No. Her name is Naima."
"That's an unusual name."
"She's from India originally. She's a student here now."
I wait for Dex to say more. She doesn't. I don't know whether her silence is just Dex being Dex or something more secretive.
I bend over her and press my lips to her breast, enjoying the way that it gives beneath the pressure.
I try again. "Tell me more about your friend."
Dex hums her pleasure instead.
I come up for air a little while later. "How long have you known her? Is she really close?"
"Our circles intersected for a while."
I think I know what she means. Before meeting me, Dex had been submissive to a master who had gone too far and had betrayed the trust that Dex had placed in him. "Naima is into the lifestyle?" I ask.
I tease the story out of her. She wants to tell me but also wants to be teased. It takes a while but neither of us minds. After Dex had broken with her dom, she ran across Naima, whom she'd once seen at some party or another. For whatever reason, the two of them hit it off. Naima was going through her own difficulties and found in Dex a kindred spirit. One thing led to another and...
I stop Dex at this point. "Don't tell me."
"That you became lovers."
"Okay. I won't tell you."
Naima convinced Dex to take control again and that if she couldn't trust anyone as a dom, the best course of action was to become one herself. A better one. The kind of dom that she wanted to have for herself. Naima, said Dex, reintroduced her to the pleasure that was possible. "She helped me at one time," says Dex. "She woke me up when I had shut myself down."
"And she was your lover."
Dex pauses a beat. "Yes. She was."
She emphasizes the last word for my benefit. She understands me well and I appreciate it.
"Does it matter?" she asks.
I think about it and am again confronted by one of those logical inconsistencies that Dex has invited into my life like unseen insects that sneak in through a door left ajar and inflict unexpected bites. I'm less put out at the prospect of meeting Dex's female lover than I would have been had Naima been male. "No," I say. "It doesn't matter."
I'm wearing the chastity device for the first time in weeks. For reasons I can guess at, Dex has felt the need to reassert herself and claim her dominance over me. I don't mind. In fact, I'm quite satisfied, for Dex has also learned that it's difficult to manhandle my unit into the confines of a cage without first taming it.
It's too early in the fall for a fire so Dex has instructed me to light some of the candles she has brought into my house. For ambiance, she says. I'm in the process of burning my fingertips when the doorbell rings. Dex hurries off to answer it.
It has been said that the women of India are among the most beautiful in the world and Naima does nothing to suggest otherwise. Dex introduces us and Naima gives me a hug as though we're long-lost friends. She's wearing a well-worn pair of jeans and a loose white blouse that is generously unbuttoned. A pendant held by a length of fine gold chain rests between her breasts. It's as though the fates are conspiring to test me and the ability of my eyes to resist the laws of curiosity.
I see immediately that there is a quiet elegance about her, a long limbed grace and confident self-possession. I'd be lying if I were to say that she didn't at first befuddle me. Despite my age and experience, unconscious beauty still takes my breath away and it takes me a while to get used to it. In a way, I hope that I never do.
I serve some wine and settle gingerly in my armchair. The weight of the device between my legs is impossible to ignore. If Dex wanted the device to suppress my libido, she might have chosen something else to do to me. The device draws my attention to my groin whenever I move. Of course, that might have been her plan too.
I'm glad that I'm relegated to the background while Dex and Naima catch up. It gives me the opportunity to observe them, these two erstwhile lovers. Their mutual attraction is obvious and I see that Dex is not immune to Naima's pull. The layers of distance that she reserves for others fall away and I see the Dex as I've only recently come to know her. For her part, Naima seems refreshingly ignorant of the effect she has on people. Expressions dance across her face like actors on a stage. She bestows touches on Dex like unconscious benedictions.
I refill the wine glasses. The two women speak in a kind of code that excludes me. People that they have in common. Events they've experienced together. There are suggestions of drama and careful euphemisms that hint that Naima might be more than a mere student. I don't mind the exclusion. I'm new to this dynamic and am content to piece together the fragments as they appear.
Dex excuses herself and moves to the kitchen to attend to dinner.
Naima observes to me that Dex has changed. For the better, she adds with a significant look at me, as though I'm somehow the architect of this improvement. Naima comments that she has never known her friend to cook. It's true. Dex is a recent convert to the kitchen and has gradually become more daring in her culinary adventures. The first time I saw her in an apron I thought for a moment that I'd landed unwittingly in Stepford. She muted my laughter with a thoroughly unstepfordian application of the flogger that night. I've since learned to appreciate Dex's tentative forays into domesticity with careful encouragement and no expressions of amusement.
Naima quizzes me gently, more out of genuine curiosity than intrusiveness. I ask my own questions. It seems that both of us are interested in the strange physics that have pulled us into Dex's particular orbit.
Naima takes a sip of her wine. "You two appear to work well together. I can tell that you're strong. Dex needs strength, and certainly you need strength to be with Dex."
I'm not sure what to say. "I think we work well together."
"That's what Dex says."
"She's talked about me?"
"Of course. Girl talk."
I laugh out loud. The thought of Dex, so private and inscrutable, engaging in anything that could be termed girl talk is frankly bizarre. It shows how little I know her still.
"What's so funny?" asks Dex, who has reappeared wearing her apron, as if to dare me to comment.
"I guess I never imagined..."
"That I might talk about you? That I might have someone to talk to?"
"You're surprised that he might think that?" asks Naima, coming to my rescue. "You're not the most communicative person in the world."
Dex mumbles something that I can't quite hear. I'm growing to like Naima more by the minute.
"I guess you've known each other for a while then," I venture.
"A few years," says Naima. Then, without prompting, she continues. "I remember that it was at a party. My companion insisted that we go there and that's where I first saw Dex. I suspect that both of us were there only because of our respective obligations. At any rate, we got to talking, found we had absolutely nothing in common, and became friends."
"Nothing in common?"
Naima laughs. "Surely you of all people can understand the mechanics of that? Opposites being attracted? We were as opposite as two people could be. Eventually we did find some common ground."
"Certainly not her fashion choices. We were, in different ways, subordinate by choice."
I sense that Dex would like nothing more than for Naima to shut up but she remains quiet.
"In different ways," continues Naima, "the paths that we had chosen for ourselves were difficult, so when we needed friendship, we were friends." Naima shrugs. "And when we needed love, we were lovers."
I have no idea whether she knows that Dex has disclosed the nature of their relationship to me. The words are spoken like it's the most natural thing in the world, two women coming together as lovers. "She mentioned something like that."
"You're not surprised, are you?" asks Naima.
"No. I'm not surprised by much anymore."
Naima appears to be enjoying herself. She glances at Dex and grins. "I understand that you too have learned to find pleasure in unexpected places?"
"Jesus, Naima." Dex is shaking her head, clearly nonplussed by the flood of disclosure.
"We're all friends," says Naima. "Let us then speak openly and honestly."
I think of the journey that I've taken with Dex. Finding pleasure in unexpected places is a delicate way of putting it. "I seem to have developed an appetite for it."
Naima laughs. "I thought so. Dex, you chose well."
More than a little wine is consumed over dinner and the restraint with which Dex and Naima began the evening begins to weaken. The conversation flows more easily, the filters fall from expressions, and there is more touching.
I wonder absently how Dex has described our relationship to her friend. Naima clearly knows about Dex's tastes and has at least inferred my collaboration. Does she know the extent of my submission and Dex's control over me?
We move from the dining room to the living room. The only light in the living room comes from the candles that I lit earlier. I pour some Taylor Fladgate into three glasses. The stereo fills the room with a soft, comfortable blanket of music. The two occupy the love seat and I return to my armchair. I note that their thighs are touching. As they talk, hands alight of their own accord on the other's shoulder or leg. There's clearly no issue of personal space.
Curiously, I don't feel excluded or threatened by their closeness.
Naima leans her head on Dex's shoulder and gazes at the play of candlelight through the liquid in her glass. I notice also the Naima's hand has found Dex's leg again.
Naima has gone to the bathroom and Dex and I are alone for a moment. Dex looks after her friend and then back to me.
"I can tell that you want her," I say.
Dex averts her eyes but nods almost imperceptibly.
"Not that it matters, but I'm okay with it."
"It does matter."
I give a yeah-right shrug.
"You're an idiot for thinking it doesn't."
"Sorry." I'm glad that my implied consent does not extend to this and I'm grateful that Dex is recognizing this line.
"If it did come to it, are you sure you're okay with it?"
"Of course, now that you've asked."
"I didn't have to."
"Life is too short to deny ourselves what pleasures are possible." The drink has relaxed all of us and Naima speaks now with a more pronounced accent and her words float on a foreign cadence. I enjoy the sound of her voice.
"You're a hedonist," I say.
Naima laughs. "If you wish to label me, that one serves as well as any other. I have a suspicion of labels.
"Let me tell you a story," continues Naima. "I was maybe eleven or twelve and living in a village in India with my parents and siblings. There was a boy with whom I'd grown up. He was in my class at school and we spent much of our time together. I probably thought in the way of young girls that we would be married one day. I had no notion that I wouldn't be a good match for him, as my family lacked wealth and position. At any rate, we grew up together and there came a day when we became curious about the differences between us. It was a game, both new and exciting. We dared each other to reveal ourselves. It was in our secret place by the river. I don't remember any fear at the time, but I do remember curiosity and wonder. Soon looks became touches and then shame brought an end to our little experiment, though I knew even then that excitement would triumph over shame and we would challenge each other again.
"I found myself looking forward to a more of these forbidden times with my friend but I would never get the chance. In spite of our solemn vows of secrecy, word of my immodesty soon wound its way through our village and into the ears of my parents. I learned then that it is in the nature of boys to brag about their conquests. At any rate, immodest is one of the gentler words that were used to describe me. I had brought shame upon myself and my family. I remember feeling how disproportionate the consequences were to our little moment. I had done nothing wrong. What was the crime? Where was the victim? But as they told it, I had, by my shamelessness, moved further from God. That was my crime. I was a Jezebel at the age of twelve.
"And so I was labeled and the words applied to me could not be washed away. They followed me for years in the whispers and callous taunts of my peers. I was shunned by those who were my friends and lured by those who would lead me astray.
"By the time I was in my teens I had satisfied my curiosity sufficiently to know that there was a certain fulfillment in being Jezebel. It occurred to me that if there was a God, then I could be closer to Him by using His gifts to give and receive pleasure."
Naima pauses to sip at her port. She's beautiful and both Dex and I are spellbound.
"Eventually I became indifferent to labels. If you want to call me a hedonist, rest assured that I regard it as the highest of compliments. I'm also a realist and have been around enough to know that too few experiences in this life are pleasurable. Those that are and those with whom one finds pleasure are to be cherished and nurtured. Life will sooner or later rob us of our health and abilities and desire, so let's enjoy these things while we can. When I am old, I want to remember the pleasures that I have had, not the pleasures that I have denied myself."
"Naima has no issues with guilt," observes Dex.
Naima smiles. "If, in the moment, there is no guilt, why should there be when the moment has passed? You know this, Dex. Guilt is something imposed on us from outside by people who hold denial and suffering as the highest expression of the human condition. I'm not going to martyr myself on someone else's notion of virtue. I believe in creativity and pleasure. Guilt plays no part in it. If it gives pleasure and no one suffers in the attaining of it, then pleasure will be my guide."
"I'll drink to that," I say.
We all raise our glasses.
I'm not quite sure how it happens or what sets it off. Perhaps the talk of pleasure has suppressed whatever inhibitions might have existed. At one point, there's a look between the two women that I can't decipher. Then one or the other or both makes a subtle move and their lips are pressed together. It may have started with a touch or it may have been the inertia of the evening. It doesn't matter; I see that everything has been leading to this.
I watch and wonder why I'm not surprised or threatened or embarrassed. I can't help feeling that this simple action, seen from the dissociative heights of my own wine-induced buzz, has been held in abeyance with difficulty ever since Naima arrived. Now that it has occurred, there is the strange type of expectant calm. I can see that Dex is both excited and bewildered.
In wine is truth. I've used the phrase before. There is truth here. About pleasure and desire. About the possible rationale for denying pleasure and desire and the myriad reasons for embracing them.
Dex is wrestling with the truth. I can see it in the way she averts her eyes from mine. She wants the pleasure of Naima. I won't deny it. If she were to ask, and inasmuch it's within my rights to deny her anything, I wouldn't stand in the way. Naima was right. When we're old and time has robbed us of our ability, pleasure denied is the stuff of regret.
They separate. Dex looks at me and then down to a hand that is wrapped in Naima's. She has reservations. Naima has none. Dex closes her eyes for a moment. At length she rises and pulls Naima out of the loveseat.
I wonder whether Dex somehow expected this from the very beginning.
Naima, her back to me, has wrapped her arms around Dex. There's a brushing of cheeks, a closing of eyes, and then a full-on kiss, less inhibited and more deliberate than the first. I can tell by Naima's posture that she's pressing into Dex. I can tell by Dex's hands on the small of Naima's back that she is pulling.
If they are uncomfortable with my presence, they don't show it.
I wonder whether the drink has robbed me of my senses or my self-respect. I wonder what Naima thinks of me or what Dex has told her of me that she should so openly lavish such attentions upon my mistress with so little regard to my presence or feelings. Is it disrespect or something else? Is this a show put on for me? Is my presence irrelevant? I have no idea.