From ‘The Holiday’ by Poppy St Vincent
North London, June, Dusk
Finally the door clicked behind him. Anna had never known one man take so long to get himself out to the gym as her husband. He made more false starts than a primary school egg-and-spoon race. Still, he was gone now and his study was unguarded.
Anna stood outside his door and shook a little. There was precious little reason for her shaking. David was not the sort of man to make his wife shake. He was an editor but she was not one of his authors. She was his wife. It was perfectly normal for her to go and tidy his office. She opened the door.
Anna moved quietly, as though he were still in the house, and every time she heard a sound she stopped mouse-still. As she started to open his computer and wait for it to let her in, she supposed that she could just ask him to let her look at his work and say, ‘David, you don’t know this, but you know those spanking books you edit? Well, I would love to be spanked. You know the sort of thing? Call me naughty and tip me over your knee; and would you like me to dress as a schoolgirl or a maid? So, if you wouldn’t mind, I will just read them and then you could pretend to catch me and punish me for it.’
Anna gave a tight little smile as she imagined the ridiculous scene. She could see with total clarity the inevitable look of disgust on his handsome face. She could never bear his disapproval. She hung her head for a moment, her pretty blonde bob falling forward as the pout of resignation came to her lips.
It was not hard to find the stories. There they were, rows upon rows of them, all tucked-up like toy soldiers in his documents file. There, she found the author she always hunted out when David left her alone with his work, Michael Marsters.
As a child and an avid reader, Anna would often get lost in a book for hours. At such times, she would lose the rest of the world and exist solely in the pages in front of her, which is exactly how David found her.
It took her several minutes to realise he was there. The story in front of her, with a rugged cowboy and a tempestuous heroine who got put in her place by his large rough hands, had prevented her from hearing the front door, his call of hello or his steps on the stairs.
It was his shoes she noticed first. The end of a chapter fell near the bottom of the screen and she paused in her reverie to detect a pair of familiar dark leather brogues that made her feel ill. Her mind, the coward, had gone elsewhere and left her to face David alone.
‘I was just catching up on your new book, about trees . . . I mean the one you are writing yourself for a change. You don’t mind, I know. I love the way you write about the woods; the forests. Very evocative.’ She looked up and smiled. ‘Anyway, good workout? Shall I get dinner started?’ She kept talking as he walked behind her so they could gaze at the screen together. ‘I was thinking steaks, I could make a sauce.’ Her voice got softer as the sentence fell into disuse. All she could see on the screen were words like ‘spank’, ‘red’ and ‘swollen’.
Anna looked at David’s desk as she tucked her arms in front of her. ‘Would you like some dinner now?’ she said very quietly to his keyboard.
David put one hand on either side of her, flat on the desk, and put his cold cheek next to her flushed one. He was so tall that he felt like a cave bear towering over her.
‘Anna? Is there anything you would like to say to me?’ His voice was as quiet as hers but he had a very different tone.
She shook her head softly and tried to draw herself in at the shoulders. She thought maybe, if he could not feel her, he would forget she was there, the quiet child at bedtime. Slowly she watched the desk leave her to be replaced by David’s face as he gently swung the chair around towards him.
With one finger he brought her crimson face up to meet his grey eyes. ‘Anna?’
And that is how Anna got her first spanking. It was slow, calm and interspersed with a conversation about respect, trust and privacy. It was not how she imagined it. Her husband’s hands were smooth and soft but the sound and sting they made took her breath away. She held her hands over her face the whole time as she dangled forward over his knee and did not even have the courage to ask him to stop.