We’re neither of us hearts and flowers types. To be honest, John and I wouldn’t win any prizes in the grand emotional stakes. Typical Brits, we find it hard enough to express our feelings at the best of times and Valentine’s Day just passes us by. Each year the shops fill with an assortment of kitsch but I steer clear of the cards which were such a source of embarrassment to me as a kid. I’ve never sent a Valentine’s Day card in my life but I did receive a few when I was at school. All of them sent anonymously, of course, but the senders could never resist dropping heavy hints. In fact, Valentine’s Day seemed to give girls the confidence to engage in outrageous flirting and I would have to fend off unwanted approaches whilst making light of the situation with my friends. I lived in fear of them guessing the reason for my lack of enthusiasm, to say nothing of the sadness I experienced in knowing that the real objects of my adolescent longings would never send a card to me.
As I say, Valentine’s Day just passes us by. We’re both of us so busy at work, it’s only the pages of sappy messages in newspapers which alert us to 14th February. But this year Valentine’s Day falls at the weekend and it crossed my mind that I could perhaps give John a little surprise. While taking a brief lunch break in my office I idly entered ‘gay Valentine’s Day cards’ into the search engine on my computer and was surprised at how many results came up. I wasn’t interested in e-cards. Quite apart from the fact that I didn’t want my details coming up as sender, I rather liked the idea of John opening an envelope and puzzling about his admirer while I played the innocent. In recent years I’ve had quite a bit of practice playing the innocent while John quizzes me. I’m very good at maintaining an expression of ignorance and innocence when questioned; it’s just that John is a past master at spotting lies or evasions. But sending a card can’t be construed as misbehaviour by any stretch of the imagination, can it? I was confident I could get away with my plan and keep him guessing.
I scrolled through the cards which were available for purchase online. John just isn’t a hearts and flowers man, although he can sometimes surprise me with the grand romantic gesture. Even so, none of the traditional images seemed quite right. Once I’d discounted all the bouquets and hearts pierced with arrows, there remained the plain obscene or the photographs of twinks disporting themselves in the sea, in swimming pools and in baths. What is it with twinks in water anyway? Whatever it is, it wasn’t the message I wanted to send to my lover on Valentine’s Day.
Then I spotted a card which made me laugh out loud. It was a drawing of a woman looking very nonplussed with the caption reading: Bella was shocked at the way her gingerbread men came out. You’ve probably guessed the rest. She’s holding a large baking tray which she's just taken out of the oven. It contains two gingerbread men, one standing upright with a very lascivious expression on his face and the other bending over in front of him. Needless to say, the two gingerbread men are pressed very closely up against one another. I knew at once that it was the perfect choice for John.
On Saturday morning we were both sitting at the breakfast table when the mail landed on the doormat. Normally we’ve left for work by the time the postman arrives so the timing this weekend was just right. These days there's little of interest delivered via snail mail and neither of us usually sees any urgency about collecting the letters. However, I was in an agony of apprehension as to whether I’d posted the card in sufficient time for it to be delivered that day, but I hid it well and waited until John got up and went into the hall. He returned sorting through a pile of junk mail and bills and sat down to begin by opening the one envelope I recognised. I think he was intrigued by the hand written address which I’d asked my secretary to produce for me. From her delighted grin, I think she guessed the purpose, especially as I was clutching the card with the picture turned away from her, but she had obliged without comment.
I saw the smile spread across John’s features as he opened the card and I schooled my expression into one of blank indifference before he lifted his eyes to mine and said, “Thanks, love. Fancy remembering it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow!”
“Is it? I hadn’t realised we’re half way through February already. I’ve been so busy at work, the weeks since Christmas have just flown by.”
“Are you saying you didn’t send me this card, Richard?”
“What card? I haven’t had time to get out to the shops at all! I did the grocery shop online. Didn’t you see the delivery van arrive last night?”
John seemed a little disconcerted so I stretched across the table in wordless demand to see the card which he handed over. The picture could still make me laugh so there was nothing forced about my reaction. I saw a slight shadow of doubt cross my lover’s features and I pushed my advantage, “They look like they’re having fun. I reckon their dough fused together in the oven!”
John laughed at that but then asked again, “You really didn’t send it?”
“No, it wasn’t me. You must have a secret admirer.”
I opened the card to examine the printed message inside. That’s one of the advantages of buying online. You can print your own personalised message and I’d taken time to compose a cryptic poem which I reckoned would keep my partner guessing:
I gaze upon you in our Chambers
My gorgeous gingerbread man
Your potent allure my heart captures
Come, lie down and share my divan
My bed is as warm as an oven
For you I have wide open arms
Be braver and come where I beckon
I trust you’ll succumb to my charms
“Well, it’s obviously from someone at work,” I offered.
“It could be anyone then. I work with hundreds of people.”
“It’s someone from your set. He says our Chambers.”
“Or she. It could have been sent by a woman.”
“With that picture? I bet you can’t buy anything like that in W H Smiths!”
“Maybe not, but the handwriting on the envelope looks like a woman’s.”
He’s sharp, my man. To deflect him from that line of inquiry I picked up the envelope myself.
“What about the postmark,” I suggested. “Where did this come from?”
I’d been careful about that. I hadn’t posted the card in the village and I hadn’t put it in the mail at work where it would have been franked with the hospital logo. I’d stuck a first class stamp on the envelope and posted it in a letter box in central London. As expected, the Royal Mail franking was clearly visible with Friday’s date inside the circle which said LONDON. There was no further clue to be had from the envelope.
“It was posted yesterday in London,” I explained in a neutral tone before turning back to the card to puzzle over the verse once again. “What do you make of the poem, then? What’s all this about your potent allure?”
“It’s someone with a poncy turn of phrase, that’s for sure!”
I bristled slightly. There was the tiniest clue there if John had just been thinking. He seemed more inclined now to be dismissive of this unsolicited declaration of love.
“Well you have so many poncy friends at work, it could be anyone then!” I retorted with just the slightest hint of sarcasm.
I’d set out to pull the wool over his eyes and now a small part of me was miffed that I’d succeeded. I think I’d imagined him getting the truth out of me eventually, with me paying the traditional price for deception. I hadn’t consciously planned for that to happen but now that John was proving less perceptive than usual, I realised that I was a little disappointed not to be getting my bottom warmed. He wouldn’t have been at all bothered by a little white lie. In fact, I reckon he would have been flattered that I’d gone to such lengths to send him an anonymous card. And a light spanking would probably have led to more interesting developments entirely suited to this annual celebration of all things carnal. Ah, well.
I handed the card back to John and he took it without further comment, standing it up on the kitchen counter where it remained for the rest of the day.
The card was still there when I came down to breakfast on Sunday morning: Valentine’s Day. I’d entirely recovered from my disappointment that John had failed to guess the origin of the card. The grinning gingerbread man amused me once again and I congratulated myself on putting one over on my omniscient partner. I’d let him know at some later date that his secret admirer was actually me.
I decided on cereal and a mug of coffee for breakfast. There was no point in preparing anything more elaborate for the two of us as John was still fast asleep in bed. I’d finished my breakfast and was well into reading the Sunday paper by the time John came downstairs. He'd showered and shaved and was dressed for the day in an open necked shirt and slim fitting jeans. I studied him appreciatively as he came into the kitchen. His newly washed hair curled in a soft curtain across his forehead in a way that I loved. He always had it much more firmly brushed back for work. The jeans highlighted the definition of his thigh muscles and, as he turned to fill the kettle, I gave myself up to open admiration of his powerful shoulders and firmly rounded backside. But my pleasant reverie was swiftly interrupted as John flicked the kettle switch and turned to me.
His expression was unfathomable and there was a growl in his tone which brought me rapidly to my feet, gulping on words of protest.
“Wha… what? I haven’t done anything!”
Even as I spoke my legs were taking over from my head and I moved without thinking into the designated place of silent reflection. No explanation was forthcoming from John and I heard the clink of crockery and cutlery as he laid a place for himself at the table. But he didn’t sit down to eat immediately. I felt rather than heard him come over and stand in silence just behind me. I shivered at his proximity, the sense of menace heightened by my inability to work out his intentions. He leaned in more closely and I could just catch sight of his face in my peripheral vision as his head came over my shoulder. I breathed deeply to master my apprehension and caught the scent of his recently applied cologne.
“Potent, isn’t it?” he remarked quietly.
He went back to the table. I heard the rustle of cornflakes being poured into his bowl and a click as the boiling kettle turned itself off. When did he work that one out then? We were about to be in for some fun and games. I’d underestimated him… yet again. I tried to relax knowing this could only turn out well but uncertainty always makes me tense and the bastard knows it. He was using that knowledge to his advantage as he made me wait while he ate his breakfast. I could hear him turning the pages of the newspaper as he proceeded at his usual Sunday morning pace.
I loved that fragrance on him. We’d tried a tester in John Lewis and he’d grudgingly admitted that Allure for men smelt good on his skin. He just wasn’t prepared to pay Chanel prices for eau de toilette although in other respects he is prepared to shell out for the finer things in life. The man drives a Porsche for heaven’s sake; he shouldn’t baulk at the price of a fine fragrance. However, I’d identified one item on that shopping trip which would be finding its way into John’s Christmas stocking. I wondered if he’d remember Allure when I dropped the name into the poem I was writing for his Valentine’s card. It was a long shot expecting him to make the connection. I’d drawn his attention to it but I thought he’d failed to pick up on my cue. That was a mistake. When does he ever fail to pick up on even the slightest hint that I’m up to no good?
John had finished his breakfast and was clearly about to demonstrate the full extent of my misjudgement. I shuffled over to stand in front of him, head down, picture of misery, playing the part for all it was worth.
“Okay, my lad. What’s the penalty for lying to me?”
“I didn’t lie to you!”
“Did you or did you not utter a categorical denial that you sent this card,” he held it up, “which is entered into evidence as exhibit A?”
Two can play at that game. Neatly avoiding the direct question I went on the offensive with a question of my own, “Is the prosecution able to offer conclusive evidence that I was the author of exhibit A?”
“All the evidence points to Dr Richard Evans as the instigator of this deception.” John was enjoying himself in full courtroom mode. “The disgusting nature of the illustration points to his perverted sense of humour and lewd sexual fantasies. The appalling verse could only be composed by a man with his total lack of poetic sensibility. Most damning of all, only he knew that my potent charm is down to Allure, the fragrance which Father Christmas brought me! The evidence against him is overwhelming.”
I was starting to laugh. “May I change my plea to guilty as charged?”
“So you admit you told a lie! I ask you again: what is the penalty for lying to me?”
“A spanking?” I enquired with feigned ignorance.
“Too right, my lad, and justice isn’t delayed in this courtroom. Drop your pants and bend over.”
Unlike John, I hadn’t dressed for the day and it was the work of moments to pull my jogging bottoms and briefs over my hips before arranging myself over his knee. We were playing a game and I was having fun but there was something about being bare and lying prone over John’s lap which made my by heart pound and my breathing become fast and shallow.
“So,” said John in a tone of voice which always makes me shiver with anticipation, “your bed is as hot as an oven, is it? Let me stoke up the heat a fraction.”
With that he embarked on a brisk spanking which was entirely too business like for my taste. I wanted to squirm away from his hand but I was rather precariously balanced with my toes just reaching the ground and my hands braced on the kitchen tiles.
“Go easy,” I begged when the sting started to build.
He administered a couple more firm slaps and then hiked my body back into its original position on his thighs; I’d gradually been slipping down as I bucked in involuntary response to the spanking. Once I was resettled, his hand cupped my buttocks and gently squeezed before he ran his palm slowly around my bottom and down my thighs. The sensation was soothing on my heated backside and I found myself relaxing as he turned his hand to run his nails lightly over the same area.
“You’re so beautiful bent over like this,” he whispered, “the muscles of your shoulders, the curve of your back, your gorgeous arse which is glowing the most delightful shade of pink. I wish you could see yourself from this angle. I wish you could see yourself as I see you, my beautiful one.”
I don’t know about my glowing arse; I couldn’t see it. But his words brought a very warm glow somewhere in my chest. It was an absurd position in which to become overwhelmed with love and affection but I felt such a connection with this man who understands me so completely. I’d be hard pressed to explain to anyone else the nature of our interaction; I’m not sure I can fully explain it to myself. Some of the things we do might seem strange, perverted or even abusive to certain people but all I can say is that this works for us. I suppose an erotic spanking is a very common fantasy and John and I both enjoy our respective roles when we’re engaged in a scene. But even when we’re just playing there’s always the underlying understanding that physical discipline is one of the things that cement our relationship.
I don’t enjoy it when John is displeased with me and I’m getting a punishment spanking but even then there's an intense sense of shared responsibility, a sort of intimate connection which I suppose is closely tied to the sexual act. I don’t want to get all Freudian about it. I just know that part of my attraction to John is rooted in his innate leadership qualities which just bring out the submissive in me. You’d never believe it to see me at work but in this, the most important relationship in my life, it is both a relief and a fulfilment to hand over responsibility to someone else. In every way in which it's possible for one human being to belong to another, I belong to John and by accepting his judgement and his discipline I try to demonstrate that I am his, now and forever.
Feeling slightly light headed from bending over John’s lap I was in no state to articulate those ideas but my understanding of what we meant to one another had been reinforced by my reflections. I think John realised that my playful mood had been replaced by something more serious but when he helped me back onto my feet he seemed reassured by what he saw in my eyes.
I was just conscious of wanting to remain close to him, of wanting to surrender myself to him; whatever he asked of me I would do. It seemed that he wanted me back in the corner. He propelled me gently in that direction and then took hold of my wrists and pulled them behind my back. Grasping his intention, I placed the fingers of one hand into the palm of the other and took up position in a fair approximation of parade rest. John left me standing there and I heard his footsteps going upstairs. I didn’t feel aggrieved at being placed in the corner again; I just relaxed and allowed my mind to wander, smiling a little to myself as I recalled John’s funny comments about my perverted sense of humour, lewd sexual fantasies and lack of poetic sensibility.
When he came back he stood behind me for a moment before taking one of my hands. I felt cold metal against my wrist and heard a click. It was a sensation I'd experienced just once before in my life when, as an undergraduate, I’d become involved in a drunken brawl and someone called the police. The next thing I knew I was being bent over the bonnet of a squad car while my hands were handcuffed behind my back. Mercifully the police took a lenient view when they discovered we were medical students and I got off with a caution. I had no concerns about John handcuffing me, though. I trusted him so completely that I waited calmly for the shackles to close around the other wrist. But nothing happened. Instead, John placed firm hands on my shoulders and turned me to face him. My hands dropped to my sides, I looked down at my wrist and gasped in delighted surprise.
“You weren’t the only one to remember Valentine’s Day this year,” said John as I lifted my wrist to look more closely at the very special present he’d given me.
I’d never seen anything quite like it. My first impression that I was being handcuffed was absolutely correct. This was a stainless steel manacle, narrow and exquisitely crafted. The spring loaded clasp enabled the bracelet to clip around my wrist just like a handcuff. The shiny metal exterior contrasted with a band of black rubber which ran round the centre of this unique piece of jewellery.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s beautiful. Where did you get it?”
“I ordered it online. It had to be shipped from the States. I was so pleased it arrived on time. Do you really like it, Richard?”
“I love it.”
“I thought you might like to wear my bracelet. It says you’re mine; you’re shackled to me!”
John laughed a trifle uncertainly, no doubt feeling uncomfortable that he might have gone too far. I slipped my arms around his neck, letting the metal bracelet slide gently along the firm line of his jaw and into the hair which curled onto his shirt collar.
“Not shackled, my love, bound. Bound with ties that will never break. I love you and your gift is the perfect symbol of my devotion. I’m proud to wear your bracelet. It’s a real turn on to wear such a beautiful piece of jewellery, knowing it says that I belong to you. Happy Valentine’s Day, darling.”
“And it’s a turn on for me too, seeing my handcuff round your broad wrist. I know you submit only to me and I never cease to marvel at your trust and loyalty. Happy Valentine’s Day, my love.”
Our lips met in a loving kiss. Perhaps we are hearts and flowers guys after all.