“Don’t you worry, my dear. It was only a lightweight jacket and I got it back, good as new. I wouldn’t have been wearing it in the winter months anyway, so no harm done.”
“It’s very kind of you to say so, Mrs Venables, but we can’t gloss over the fact that I stole it,” said Oscar, bravely.
“And we all know now that you weren’t feeling yourself at the time. You’d just lost your lovely wife and the balance of your mind was disturbed, as they say in court.”
“I was lucky not to finish up in court, Mrs Venables, the company’s been very kind to me.”
“And so they should. We all know what a hard worker you are. Mr Carlyle’s been busting a gut to cope while you’ve been away.”
“I don’t know about that. But I’m so grateful to you for accepting my apology. Please take my letter home and read it. It’s hard to put into words what I want to say. I’ve found it easier to get the important things down on paper. I really mean every word I’ve written.”
“I’ll take it home and read it tonight, if that’s okay.” Mrs Venables pushed her office chair away from her keyboard and reached under the desk for her handbag. She tucked the handwritten envelope into a side pocket and then reached up to place a comforting hand on Oscar Williams’ arm. “Don’t you go fretting about this, my dear. No one in the office blames you anymore. We’re all looking forward to seeing you back at your desk. Not long now, eh?”
It was true that Oscar had only one week remaining of his suspension. He’d personally apologised to nearly all the women whose belongings he’d taken and he couldn’t wait to get back to work. The loss of six week’s wages had made serious inroads into his meagre savings but, more than the resumption of his salary, he was looking forward to working again for Simon Carlyle.
He’d completed a few projects for his boss, on a strictly unofficial basis, during his enforced stay at home. He’d enjoyed the intellectual challenge and he’d given each task his full care and attention as one small way of repaying Simon for all he’d done to help him through a stressful couple of months. He also recognised that his private arrangement to ease the office workload had led directly to the formation of a closer relationship with Simon Carlyle, a much closer relationship.
They now spent most evenings and every weekend together, sometimes at Oscar’s small Victorian house and sometimes in Simon’s sixth floor flat. Initially Oscar had been intimidated by the sheer size of Simon’s apartment, with its panoramic views over the city, but gradually he’d come to feel at home there, encouraged by Simon to keep some of his clothes and belongings in the master bedroom which they shared. On occasion he’d spend the day alone in the flat, completing office paperwork and then taking pleasure in preparing dinner before Simon got home from work.
There was no doubt that Simon was much the better cook but he was always appreciative of Oscar’s efforts and proved more than willing to demonstrate his own signature dishes when the two of them had time to spend together in the kitchen. Oscar felt he’d found more than a lover; he’d found the friend he’d been searching for all his life. They chatted, argued, laughed and shared their deepest thoughts and feelings, the eight year age gap between them dissolving to nothing as they took pleasure in each other’s company.
But, when they got to the bedroom, there was never any doubt that Simon was in charge, and Oscar wouldn’t have had it any other way. His natural reticence, which he himself characterised as excessive modesty, made him hesitant about initiating sexual contact or flaunting his charms. But when ordered to strip or bend, to touch or lick he complied without complaint, incapable of disguising his excitement at Simon’s mastery. It was as though the removal of responsibility for his actions liberated his libido, just as Simon was aroused by the blushing young man who obeyed all his commands — or nearly all. For, now and again, Oscar found it fun to demonstrate reluctance or even refuse outright to follow Simon’s orders. Simon’s reaction in such circumstances was unpredictable but Oscar had never found the outcome anything other than exciting and, ultimately, rewarding.
However, with just two days to go before his return to work Oscar found himself alone in Simon’s flat, awaiting his lover’s return with some trepidation. He’d seen Simon only hours earlier in the office, when he’d popped in to complete some essential preliminaries before the lifting of his suspension. But he’d elected to make his own way to the flat rather than wait and travel home with his partner. He needed time to process what had taken place at work and time to curse his own stupidity, although there was never any doubt in his mind that he would have to tell Simon what he’d done.
He could hardly believe he’d managed to screw up so badly in the short space of time between lunching with Simon in the office cafeteria and leaving the building at four o’clock, and he dreaded to think what Simon would make of his behaviour. Apart from one or two minor clashes with Simon in the early days of their relationship, clashes which Oscar was unable to recall without a wince of embarrassment, his conduct had been nothing less than exemplary. When he heard a key scrape in the lock he gritted his teeth and walked resolutely out of the kitchen, a false grin plastered on his face.
“Thank God, another week over!” said Simon with heartfelt relief as he slipped off his jacket and loosened his tie. “At least from Monday I’ll have you back in the office doing a full day’s work.” Having vented some of his frustration at the end of a gruelling week, Simon turned to Oscar, intent on giving him a proper greeting. But the sight of the young man’s ashen face and troubled eyes, which gave the lie to his strained smile of welcome, stopped Simon in his tracks. “What’s the matter? What’s happened?” he demanded.
“Nothing. Come and sit down and I’ll make you a cup of tea.”
“Don’t mess me about, Oscar Williams. Something’s definitely the matter.”
“Okay,” conceded Oscar. “I can’t hide anything from you, can I? I’ve done something stupid, something I’m ashamed of, and it’s going to cause problems for us both. So come and sit down and I’ll tell you.”
“Are you all right? You’re not hurt, are you? Has there been an accident?”
“No, no, nothing like that.”
“Then, whatever’s the matter, we can sort it out. We can find a way to fix it.”
“You’re going to be so cross and I don’t know how you’re going to put this right. I deserve… I don’t know what I deserve for doing this.”
“If there’s any decision to be taken about your just deserts then I’ll be the one taking it.” said Simon repressively. “You just concentrate on giving me the facts of the matter.” To Oscar’s relief, Simon did then start to move towards the kitchen. The last thing he wanted was to make his confession standing in the entrance hall. However, when they reached the kitchen, Simon steered him towards one of the wooden chairs with a stern command to sit down. He then filled the kettle himself, placed a couple of tea bags in the tea pot, set out two mugs and finally took a seat at the kitchen table opposite Oscar who, by this stage, had his head in his hands. However, the cessation of movement in the kitchen interrupted Oscar’s panicky thoughts and and he raised anguished eyes to Simon’s implacable ones. “Let’s hear it then,” came the firm order.
Rejecting a powerful temptation to do the logical thing and start from the beginning, Oscar took a deep breath and blurted out the words he knew Simon had to hear sooner or later. “I called Miss Melville a fucking bitch.”
Simon’s eyebrows lifted just slightly but his expression didn’t change as he absorbed his partner’s words. Oscar was braced for the eruption of fury he felt was deserved but it seemed that Mr Carlyle no more lost his temper in private than he did in public. “I take it this was in response to perceived provocation,” he finally observed.
Oscar was relieved that Simon didn’t appear to be angry but he wasn’t sure how to interpret his response. He suspected there was an undertone of sarcasm in the dispassionately worded invitation to explain himself more fully. “Well, we did get into an argument,” he conceded, “but Miss Melville started it.”
“Really.” said Simon, his expression darkening. “I must say I find it hard to imagine what she could have said or done to justify such foul language on your part.”
“I know,’ said Oscar miserably. “I’m not trying to make excuses; I should never have spoken to her like that. I didn’t mean to be so rude. Things sort of got out of hand.”
“So what happened?”
“Well, she was the last of the ladies I had to apologise to. They’ve all been so nice and I suppose I was sort of expecting her to be understanding and forgiving, especially...” Oscar’s voice hardened, “especially as I only took her stupid make up bag and she got everything back within a couple of weeks.”
“So you weren’t as repentant when you spoke to her as when you apologised to the other women?” Simon’s intonation denoted a question but Oscar chose to pretend that no response was called for. After an uncomfortable silence Simon posed another more pointed question. “Is there any special reason why you left Miss Melville to last? You’re back at work on Monday. Why did you wait until this afternoon before you went to see her?”
Oscar silently cursed Simon’s perspicacity. As his boss had asked the question, he clearly had a shrewd idea of the answer so there was no point in lying. “Oh, I suppose I’d been putting it off,” he admitted grudgingly. “But she was the one who went poking around in my desk drawer.” His voice sharpened with resentment. “Then she came running to you. She was the one who shopped me.”
“So you blame her for getting you into trouble.”
“No, no, of course not. I know I’ve only got myself to blame. But she was so nasty about it all, when I was just trying to say I was sorry, and I lost my temper. She shouldn’t have said it was a disgrace I got off so lightly,” he ended angrily. “She is a fucking bitch!”
“Well, if that’s your considered opinion, it’s difficult to see what I can do to help you.” Simon let that observation hang in the air until Oscar lowered his eyes with a muttered apology. Then he calmly continued, turning his attention to the practicalities. “It sounds as if Miss Melville doesn’t come out of this too well either. How did things end between you? Do you know if she’s made a formal complaint?”
“I didn’t apologise, if that’s what you’re asking. She stomped off, shouting. I think she said she was going to report me but I don’t know if she did. I came straight back here.”
“Then I need to find out whether or not she’s taken the matter up with the personnel department. It is Friday night but I could ring David Wheatley at home.” Simon got up as the kettle boiled, then poured hot water and waited for the tea to brew whilst he considered the options. Oscar watched him, reassured by the obvious intensity of his partner’s thought that he would come up with a way out of the mess.
When Simon turned his attention back to Oscar, it was with a renewed sense of purpose. “Right, what I need from you, young man, is an accurate account of exactly what was said and done this afternoon.” He plonked a mug of tea down beside Oscar and then took a notebook and pen from the kitchen drawer. “You’ll do it in writing, truthfully and legibly. And woe betide you if I’m not satisfied with the result. While you’re doing that I’ll go into the study to call Mr Wheatley.” With that he collected his own mug of tea and left Oscar to his task.
Oscar picked up the pen, opened the notebook and stared at the blank page. It had fine black lines and a red margin which reminded him forcefully of a school exercise book. Maybe it was that association, or maybe it was something that his conscious mind didn’t want to acknowledge, but he felt very much disgrace and nervous of the consequences if he didn’t at once make a start on the assignment. Briefly he contemplated writing the date on the top line before reminding himself that he wasn’t about to embark on a piece of homework. He dismissed the need for a heading on the same grounds and just began to reproduce, as faithfully as memory would allow, the course of his conversation with the office receptionist. It hadn’t lasted long and he was reading through what he’d written when Simon returned to the kitchen.
“You may be in luck,” Simon said curtly. “It seems Miss Melville hasn’t made a formal complaint, at least, not yet. And, strictly off the record, the head of personnel told me she’s been making a fuss about not getting compensation when other ladies received what she called a payout.”
“But she didn’t have to replace anything,” objected Oscar.
“She claims she had to buy new make up.”
“So? It won’t have gone to waste; she’ll have plastered it all over her face.”
“That may very well be the case,” conceded Simon, as he recalled mascara laden lashes, “but it won’t help your situation to say so outside this room.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“Let me see what you’ve written,” Simon instructed, holding out his hand for the notebook. Oscar passed it over and waited apprehensively as Simon resumed his seat at the table and began to read. “So she suggested that you got preferential treatment by cosying up to the boss, did she?”
Oscar blushed. “It was the way she looked at me, Simon, sort of sneering. It made me so angry, especially when I thought she was getting at you.”
“That’s no excuse for what you said to her,” insisted Simon, “but I do understand now why you were so angry and upset. You know you should just have walked away. You would have been within your rights to make a complaint yourself about what she said. We talked about some of the difficulties of a workplace relationship, didn’t we? We can’t hide the fact that we’re partners but we agreed that we’d always behave professionally at the office and we would expect others to do the same.”
“I know,” said Oscar resignedly. “I’ve let you down over this.”
“You haven’t let me down, Oscar, but maybe you’ve let yourself down a bit. You have such a good reputation at work for courtesy and consideration.” It was those words, rather than any expression of displeasure, which brought tears to Oscar’s eyes. Simon saw him attempting to blink them away but made no comment, continuing rather more briskly, “We’ll sort all this out on Monday. Richard or I will see Miss Melville and establish her version of events. It may be necessary to remind her of the company’s equality policy, but what it says about harassment in the workplace also serves to protect her against verbal abuse. I think you’ll have to be ready to offer an unreserved apology.”
“Of course. I’m so sorry. On my first day back, too!”
“Well, there’s no point in worrying about it now. What’s done is done and we’ll try to put things right next week. Now, what have we got for dinner tonight?”
Oscar tried to pull himself together and quickly ran the back of his hand across his eyes before he got up and opened the oven. “Only a casserole, I’m afraid, and I can’t vouch for what’s in it. I was so upset about what happened at work, I just chopped up vegetables mindlessly and flung them in the dish.”
“It smells appetising enough. I’ll lay the table, shall I?”
But once the meal was served Oscar found himself unable to eat much of it. He pushed the food round his plate while Simon pretended not to notice and he offered only half hearted responses to Simon’s attempts to engage him in conversation. After dinner, he spent an inordinately long time clearing up in the kitchen to put off joining Simon in front of the television and, by bedtime, he was so disconsolate that his partner could no longer ignore his plight.
Simon had been hoping that a rapid return to normality would take Oscar’s mind off what had happened at work but it seemed that the young man couldn’t help but dwell on his mistake. Eventually he leant over to Oscar, who was sitting beside him on the sofa, and put a comforting arm around his shoulder. “It’s not the end of the world, love. By Monday you’ll have put things right with Miss Melville.”
“I don’t care about her,” admitted Oscar. “It’s you I’m upset about.”
“There’s no need to be worried about me,” objected Simon with some surprise. “I’m sure Mr Wheatley and I will be able to deal with this so that the matter goes no further.”
“That’s exactly what I’m upset about. You’re having to step in and protect me from the results of my own folly. Yet, again,” he added with vehemence.
“I’m sure you’ll have learnt a lesson from this, Oscar. You won’t do it again.”
“So what are you going to do about it this time?” The question was thrown out like a challenge.
“What do you mean?”
“You once mentioned what you wanted to do to me when I mislaid the MacMillan file. This has to be worse.”
It took Simon a moment to recall the relevant conversation. Then he asked bluntly, “Are you saying you want a spanking?”
“Not ‘want’ exactly,” said Oscar, blushing.
“Then what are you suggesting?”
“Well, we play at it, don’t we?” Oscar couldn’t maintain eye contact with his partner. “I pretend to be naughty and we both enjoy…” His voice trailed off.
“And you’re suggesting that I give you a real spanking? One that will really hurt?”
“Maybe it’s what I deserve.”
“I decide what you deserve.”
“Then, maybe it’s something I need. Something to set the record straight between the two of us. Nothing to do with Miss Melville.” Oscar was glad he was sitting beside Simon on the sofa. It was actually easier to gaze fixedly at his hands than to turn to Simon as he gave voice to his innermost thoughts.
Simon could see what a struggle it was for Oscar to make his request and decided to meet him half way. “It would just be a penalty for losing your temper and using abusive language, Oscar,’ he said quietly. “A reminder that I expect better of you.”
“Yes,” agreed Oscar, hopeful that Simon was finally coming round to his way of thinking. “It’d make me feel better, I think. Make me feel I’d paid the penalty for my… my loss of control.”
“No messing about, no play acting, and no sex. Are you sure? This would be for real.”
This time Oscar did turn and look his partner in the eye. “Yes,” he said resolutely, “I’m sure.”
“Come on then, up you get.” Simon shifted back on the sofa and Oscar gulped. He hadn’t expected his agreement to be acted upon with such alacrity. He got rather reluctantly to his feet and stood in front of Simon waiting for instructions. “Drop your trousers and underwear and bend over my lap.”
Simon had suddenly become very businesslike and the effect was somewhat chilling. Oscar’s fingers moved to the fastening of his trousers and his face flushed with shame at having to bare himself in the living room. As he lowered his clothing he spared a grateful thought for the dimmed lighting and still chattering television which he hoped would cover any tell tale sound for neighbouring residents of the block. With his trousers round his ankles he was reduced to shuffling into a position from which he could place himself squarely across Simon’s powerful thighs. He half expected Simon to pull him across his lap but it seemed that his partner was expecting him to do all the work himself. If it was proving difficult to offer himself up for punishment, Oscar suspected that might be part and parcel of paying the penalty.
He found he had to squirm forward once he’d bent over Simon’s lap in order to raise his bottom to the required height and he hoped that Simon wouldn’t misinterpret his writhing. But, given that he’d begun to tremble slightly, with anticipation rather than fear, he concluded that Simon was unlikely to view the manoeuvre as an attempt to distract him from the business in hand. Indeed, Simon immediately slid his hand up Oscar’s back to raise his shirt and then placed his palm lightly on the upturned curve of Oscar’s buttocks.
It was the only warning Oscar received and he just nodded his head which was resting within his folded arms on the sofa. But it seemed that Simon was watching for his response because it was followed at once by a stinging slap to his backside which quite took his breath away. It was clear at once that this was to be nothing like the erotic spankings with which they were experimenting in the bedroom. No gradual warming of Oscar’s buttocks, no teasing or words of endearment, no stroking or featherlight touch and, above all, no respite.
Simon worked quickly and efficiently, circling Oscar’s bottom until every inch of skin was glowing red. Having been robbed of breath by the shock of the first smack, Oscar recovered enough to gasp, then groan and finally yell as the punishment proceeded. He tried his best to remain in position across Simon’s knees but eventually his resolution failed and his body bucked and twisted in an effort to avoid the worst of the onslaught. But Simon just placed a lightly restraining hand on his hip to hold him in position until he felt he’d done enough.
He was deliberately going easy on Oscar but he wanted him to feel he’d paid in full for his transgression. When Oscar’s tense body began to relax against his own and his yells started to end in a sniffle he delivered a couple of stinging slaps to the back of Oscar’s thighs and stopped. It took Oscar a few moments to realise that his punishment was over and then he was in no state to get up at once. Simon was content to wait until he’d recovered some of his self possession and then, gently, helped him to feet. It seemed that all embarrassment about his unclothed state was lost in the need for immediate reassurance and Simon was happy to take his young lover in his arms and cradle his head on his shoulder.
“Okay?” Simon asked when Oscar showed signs of moving.
“Sore. Wow, that hurt!”
“Feeling any happier?”
Oscar took a minute to consider the question but Simon already had his answer when he saw the smile. “I don’t feel guilty any more, if that’s what you’re asking. I suppose I’ve paid the penalty for my stupidity.”
“You’ve still got to apologise to Miss Melville on Monday.”
“I know. I hope you won’t have too much trouble sorting things out with her.”
“Actually,” said Simon speculatively, “this spanking should make matters much easier. I can tell Mr Wheatley and Miss Melville that I’ve already disciplined you in private. That should quickly bring them round.” He watched with amusement as Oscar’s eyes widened in horror and then put him out of his misery. “Of course, I’ll never tell them that you were turned, bare bottomed, over my knee.”
Oscar made to smack him round the ear but, hobbled by the trousers round his ankles, he was unable to make contact as Simon stepped smartly out of range. “Bastard,” he growled.
“Language, Oscar,” said Simon warningly. “And pull up your pants, you’re making an exhibition of yourself,” he added, with a laugh.