John and Richard ~ Chapter 7: Obedience

Obedience: ‘there’s the rub,’ as Hamlet would say. And that’s so typical of me, Richard Evans, always ready with a quip or a quotation to distract myself and others from issues I’m not ready to deal with. So it comes as no surprise that the issue causing me a problem at the moment is obedience.

Obedience lies at the heart of my relationship with John. I have willingly given him authority over me and he acts as a steadying influence in my life. It’s difficult to explain the nature of the agreement I have with my partner without making him sound dictatorial, but in our private lives he is the decision maker. I wouldn’t have it any other way but that doesn’t mean that my opinions and wishes are discounted. I’m an equal partner in our relationship and my opinions are always sought and valued. In the final analysis, however, I have accorded John Hamilton-Smythe my obedience and I try to offer that obedience willingly and cheerfully. So how come I not only disregarded John’s express instructions but also made the situation ten times worse by failing to disclose my disobedience?

The truth, of course, is that I like the idea of handing over authority to someone in whom I have unquestioning trust. As a hospital doctor, I carry a great deal of responsibility in my professional life and am frequently required to make life and death decisions for other people. It feels like a burden has been lifted from my shoulders when I come home to John and he is in charge. He copes so much better than me with the stresses of professional life. He has the ability to stop worrying about work related problems when he leaves the office and he is, by temperament, one of life’s leaders. He enjoys being the boss in our relationship and I find it fulfilling to defer to him. So we’re perfectly matched, to say nothing of the sexual compatibility.

I'd always fantasised about the handsome, dominant and powerful man who would sweep me off my feet. Actually, I think that’s a rather common fantasy, although some of the things my imaginary lover went on to do to my bound and yielding body would never have made it past the censor into a Mills and Boon romance. I never expected to meet such a man in real life. And, of course, I didn’t. John Hamilton-Smythe didn’t sweep me off my feet, not literally. In fact, our relationship has had its fair share of ups and downs. It certainly took a while for us both to be comfortable with the discipline aspect of our partnership.

When it comes to a discipline partnership, obedience is just one side of the coin; the other side is punishment. As I say, I try to give John my ready acquiescence but there are consequences when I fail to live up to our mutually agreed standards. But even then, even when those consequences can be humiliating and painful, there is still a buzz from surrendering myself so completely to my lover’s authority. Our discipline partnership is a very private aspect of our relationship but it springs out of the love and trust we have for one another. It’s a way of keeping my life on an even keel but, to be honest, it’s also a turn on for both of us, so much so that sometimes we just play at it. John will turn me over his knee for a light spanking which usually leads to great sex. A serious punishment is an altogether different matter but I’ve given John my unreserved consent for that too. However sore I feel afterwards, there’s always a sense of relief that I can let go of my guilt in the certain knowledge that my offence is forgiven and forgotten.

So back to my question: why did I disobey John and continue to do so by covering up my disobedience? Well, enjoying the concept of submission to your partner is all well and good until, that is, you find something that you really, really want to do and he forbids it. Then the idea of obedience, which is a thrill in theory, comes up against the reality of disobedience with the associated prospect of immediate gratification. And it’s no contest; I have a fatal tendency to indulge my desire without thinking too much about future consequences. Except I don’t blatantly defy John and I certainly don’t lie to him if I can possibly avoid it. The consequences of lying are worse than they are for disobedience. No, I find ways to get around John’s edicts, ways to get what I want without strictly contravening the letter of the Hamilton-Smythe law. What I always forget is that I’m up against one of the sharpest legal minds in the Central Criminal Court and I’ve never yet escaped just and deserved correction.

The problem arose this time with the very flattering invitation from the Students’ Union to act as staff liaison officer on the Rag Week Committee. In the dim and distant past, when I was a student myself, I always enjoyed Rag Week with its opportunities to indulge in boisterous and outrageous stunts, all in the name of charity. So it was very gratifying that the current generation of medical students didn’t consider me too ancient and fuddy-duddy to serve on the committee organising the Rag Week events and co-ordinating all the fundraising activity.

Of course, I discussed it with John before giving my answer to the President of the Students’ Union. I had already decided to accept the invitation so it was more in the spirit of keeping John up to speed with my commitments that I raised the subject over dinner one night.

“I’m joining the Rag Week Committee,” I announced brightly.

“Really,” replied John neutrally. “What will that entail?”

“I’m not sure precisely. I’ve been asked to be the staff liaison representative.”

“It sounds like you’ll be acting on behalf of the university authorities. Does that give you the right of veto?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, can you say no when the students come up with some dangerous or illegal scheme?”

“Oh, come on, John. Rag Week is all about getting up to risky and semi legal activity. I’m not planning to act as some sort of Health and Safety Inspector!”

“Well, I think you should talk to the Dean of Students so you know precisely what your responsibilities will be.”

“I don’t intend taking on any responsibilities. I’m planning on having a bit of fun and contributing a few good ideas for fund raising stunts, although I won’t be taking part myself. I don’t have time, for a start.”

“I’m surprised you even have time for the committee meetings. You’ve been so overworked at the hospital recently.”

“All the more reason to do something which I’ll enjoy, something which will give me a laugh… keep me in touch with young people.”

“I’d rather you came home early if you have any free time, Richard. We could have a laugh and a bit of fun together. You don’t need to hang around with the students to enjoy yourself.” John spoke seriously and a trifle sadly. While I was still thinking about how to reassure him he followed up with a question, “What ideas do you have for fundraising stunts anyway?”

I did have one brilliant idea and I couldn’t wait to share it with John. “I’m going to suggest the students steal the head of Jeremy Bentham from University College and demand a ransom.” When John looked a trifle grim I pressed on. “It’s been done before, John. In fact they keep his head locked in a box now to prevent further thefts. The body on display in the cloisters has a wax head. Did you know that?”

“Actually, I did, Richard. I sometimes take visiting lawyers to see Jeremy Bentham. He’s displayed at UCL just as he requested in his will. He was not only a philosopher but also an important writer on legal and social reform. American visitors, in particular, are interested in him. Did you know that he advocated the decriminalisation of homosexual acts? He was an amazingly forward thinking man for the eighteenth century.”

“No, I didn’t know that… but we’re not going to do anything disrespectful. These are medical students. They’ll treat the head with care and return it when the ransom is paid to charity.”

“How will they gain access to the head if it’s kept locked away?”

“Well, I’ve recently been seeing some patients over at University College Hospital and one of the doctors there showed me the head. I know where it’s kept and where to collect the key.”

“So, you’re planning to betray a colleague’s trust. You intend inciting students to commit a criminal act. And in the process you risk doing damage to a fragile and treasured relic of one of the nation’s great thinkers and writers.” John spoke in measured tones but with the all the gravity and solemnity he adopts when summing up the case for the prosecution. His manner angered me.

“Oh, come on, John. Don’t be such a killjoy. It’s not as though we’ll be the first to stage this prank. There’s a fine old tradition of medical students abducting Jeremy Bentham’s head. I’m just suggesting we revive the custom.”

“You can suggest all you like, Richard, but I’m telling you now that you’re not to have anything more to do with this Rag Week Committee.”

“No! You can’t do that. This is my work and you never interfere with my work.”

“I’m sorry, Richard, but this has nothing whatsoever to do with your professional judgement, which I would never question. What you’re proposing is a criminal act which could have very serious consequences for the students who follow your lead, to say nothing of your own liability. You could find yourself in court or up in front of the General Medical Council. Now I’m using my professional judgement and you must accept that I know what I’m talking about. The climate of opinion has changed when it comes to student pranks. What was tolerated in the past will undoubtedly result in criminal prosecution today.”

Angry though I was, the essential truth of John’s statement was beginning to dawn on me. I’d been so delighted with my daring plan that I really hadn’t taken the time to think the whole thing through. Not that I had any intention of admitting that fact to John. My failure to think of the consequences before engaging in precipitate action has, in the past, been the source of some rather painful encounters with John’s paddle. Instead I capitulated, but with rather bad grace.

“Okay,” I muttered a trifle sulkily. “If you say it’s not sensible, I’ll drop the Jeremy Bentham plan and think of something else.”

“You don’t appear to have been listening, Richard. I said you’re not to serve on the Rag Week Committee.”

“Oh, come off it, John,” I said angrily. “There’s no harm in being on the committee.”

“I want you to explain to the students that you don’t have the time to help with Rag Week” John continued quietly. “I’ve made a decision which is very much in your best interests and…”


“Calm down, Richard, and listen to me. There are good reasons for my decision. I’m sorry if I expressed myself in a rather peremptory manner but I did think I could rely on your obedience and respect.”

John’s apology and mild reproof did give me pause. The angry words which I was about to utter died on my lips but my defiance must still have been apparent in my body language. John got up from the dinner table and came to stand behind my chair, resting his hands on my shoulders and using his thumbs to massage my neck until I could feel my tense muscles begin to relax. Then he asked, “Will you listen without interruption while I explain my decision to you?”

It took me a moment or two but finally I nodded and John guided me to my feet and into the sitting room where we sat down together on the sofa. John sat sideways with his back against the armrest so that he could look directly at me, but I kept my gaze averted.

“I love you, Richard, and I only want what’s best for you,” were his opening words. “You’ve been working all hours at the hospital lately and I really don’t think you should be taking on additional responsibilities. And make no mistake about it; staff liaison on the Rag Week Committee is a responsibility and not a joyride. It’s a rotten job which will make you no friends. The students may have invited you to serve on the committee but the staff liaison officer is there on behalf of the university authorities. If things get out of hand then you’ll be the one explaining what went wrong to the Vice Chancellor.”

“How do you know all this?” I asked rather sullenly.

“Because I’m familiar with the university constitution and the remit of the Students’ Union. I’ve done some legal work for the university authorities. Trust me, Richard; you don’t want to get embroiled in this. Far from proposing Rag Week stunts, it would be your job to review and, where necessary, veto the students’ proposals. That’s not likely to win you many friends on the student body.”

“But the students wanted me to join the committee,” I said earnestly, turning to John to emphasise my point. “They said I was the unanimous choice. I really wanted to do it, John.”

“I know, love. I’m sorry to disappoint you. In the long term, though, I think you’ll realise that my decision is the right one.”

“Are you sure the staff liaison officer represents the Vice Chancellor? You’re not just saying that to put me off the job?”

“I wouldn’t lie to you, Richard, and if you had accepted the invitation, the Dean of Students would soon have been in contact to outline your responsibilities.”

“Okay. Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that I didn’t believe you. I didn’t understand what I was getting myself into. I’ll talk to the President of the Students’ Union tomorrow and tell him that the Summer Term is always very busy for me and I won’t have time for the Rag Week Committee.”

“Thank you, Richard. I’m glad you’ve decided to do as I asked.” There wasn’t the slightest trace of censure in my partner’s tone, let alone any hint of sarcasm, but I started to feel guilty about resisting his instructions.

“Sorry,” I said again, somewhat hesitantly.

John didn’t reply but his slightly raised brow clearly signalled the need for further elaboration.

“You know,” I added, ducking my head in embarrassment. “For saying no to you.”

“Thank you for the apology. I appreciate the acknowledgement that you behaved inappropriately.” He got to his feet and moved towards the door. “Come upstairs now and we’ll discuss in the bedroom how I feel about you shouting at me and offering outright defiance.”

His words delivered an unexpected jolt to my system. I felt my stomach clench involuntarily and my face grew hot as a blush spread from my cheeks down my throat to my neck. I’d been so engrossed in our argument, I hadn’t registered the extent of my aggression and rudeness. With the benefit of calmer reflection I realised how unfair I’d been to John. I make no secret of how much I enjoy him acting masterfully and then, when he comes up with a decision I don’t like, I give him a metaphorical kick in the teeth. I was beginning to think I deserved everything I had coming but that didn’t stop me feeling very apprehensive about the nature of the forthcoming discussion.

We went upstairs in silence and when we entered the bedroom John uttered just one word, “Strip.”

He would never normally make me strip completely naked for a spanking. I looked at him enquiringly but his expression was impossible to read. It didn’t seem like a good moment to start questioning his instructions so I began, rather reluctantly, to remove my clothes. John sat down on the bed and watched me undress. Soon I began to find the intensity of his gaze unnerving and, in my confusion, I tried to pull my trousers off over my shoes and got all tangled up. I glanced apologetically at John. In other circumstances he would have laughed, I’m sure, but his eyes just glittered darkly and he made no comment as I sat down on the bed beside him to disentangle myself and remove my socks and shoes.

When I was finally naked John looked me slowly up and down and then said, “Come here,” in an uncompromising tone, indicating a spot on the bedroom rug just in front of where he was sitting. I stepped into the required position and John said, “Kneel.”

He spread his legs to make space for me to obey his instruction as I got down rather clumsily on my knees in front of him. My mind was racing, I didn’t know what was about to happen and I was thoroughly confused. But when John said, “Hands behind your back; eyes closed,” it never occurred to me to question or to disobey. Despite my nervousness and perplexity, my trust in my partner remained absolute. I could hear rustling and then a hand, placed behind my head, gently pulled me closer and I was left in no doubt as to John’s requirements. I started to reach forward but John repeated the instruction, “Hands behind your back; eyes closed,” as he himself lifted his flaccid penis and guided it into my warm and welcoming mouth.

John then removed his hands from my head and left me to manage unaided. It was a little difficult when his penis slipped from my mouth and I had to nuzzle blindly in his groin to recover my prize. After a while, however, the task became easier as the object of my ministrations began to push firmly against my face. All thoughts of punishment slipped to the back of my mind as I concentrated on a task which I always enjoyed. I began to think that I might make up for my lack of respect by giving John the best blow job ever and, to judge from the interruptions to the rhythm of his breathing, I was definitely doing something right. Then, without warning he pulled away and told me I could open my eyes. I saw that John was still fully dressed but his erect penis was jutting provocatively from his open flies. He was getting to his feet as he issued his next instruction. “Stand up and bend over the end of the bed, hands flat on the quilt, please.”

I moved quickly to do as I’d been told, all my apprehension flooding back. We never mixed punishment and sex but there’s a first time for everything and I wondered if John was deliberately trying to throw me off guard. However, I dismissed the thought almost as soon as it crossed my mind. John is always honest and straightforward with me; he never plays mind games or tries to unsettle me. I’m certain that if I’d asked him then what he was doing he would have answered me honestly but I decided to remain silent and show him that I trusted him completely. That didn’t prevent me listening very carefully to his movements to try and ascertain his intentions. I heard the wardrobe door open and my heart sank as I surmised that he was removing the cane from its resting place at the back of the top shelf. My guess was reinforced by the sound of him moving items stored on the shelf but then the wardrobe door was shut and I heard him crossing the room and entering the bathroom.

I remained alone in the bedroom bent over bed. My feet were widely spread to bring me low enough to rest both hands comfortably on the quilt and I was conscious of the undignified posture as well as the slight breeze from the open window on my bared and raised backside. When John re-entered the bedroom and placed a hand on my back I shivered in nervous anticipation. The next thing I felt was the index finger of his other hand pressing against my anus and the chill of the gel he was rubbing into me. This was quickly followed by the unmistakable pressure of his erect penis nudging against my well lubricated orifice and I moved to facilitate his entry. It was a pleasant but unexpected experience to find my lover thrusting firmly and rhythmically into my body when I had been expecting to feel a much less welcome rhythm against my behind. I gave up trying to figure out John’s strategy. In fact, I stopped thinking altogether and gave myself up to the physical sensations which were becoming overwhelming.

Sometime later, curled up in the warmth of John’s arms I felt comfortable enough to ask what had been going on. “I thought you were going to spank me for behaving badly tonight,” I admitted under cover of darkness. “Why didn’t you?”

“I knew you’d be thinking you were for it. I reckoned that an apprehensive wait would be all you needed to remind you that we always treat one another with respect.”

“Bastard,” I responded, without heat. I felt rather than saw John’s small nod which accepted my succinct summary of his conduct as fair and just.

“I also reckoned that some rough sex would remind you who’s in charge in this relationship.”

“It wasn’t rough sex,” I replied, snuggling up to John. “You’re never rough, although it’s always a turn on when you’re so masterful. I just got a bit scared when I had to wait, bending naked over the bed. I thought you’d gone to get the cane out of the wardrobe and then you disappeared into the bathroom. What was going on?”

“Ah! My plan went a bit awry at that point. I suddenly remembered we were out of lube. I thought there was a new tube on the top shelf of the wardrobe but I couldn’t find it. Then I remembered we had a bottle of that water based stuff in the bathroom. I had to search through the bathroom cabinet. Sorry to keep you on tenterhooks.”

“You’re not sorry at all,” I laughed.

“Yes I am, well… just a little bit.”

“I’m the one who should be saying sorry, though,” I said, suddenly serious. “I shouldn’t have shouted at you and I shouldn’t have refused to accept your decision. I promised to obey you and as soon as you require something I don’t like, I throw my promise back in your face.”

“Don’t beat yourself up, love. If that’s what you need I can still oblige. Yes, you did promise obedience but you didn’t promise never to be angry and maybe I didn’t handle things too well. I would have preferred a more respectful and accommodating response but I do understand your disappointment. Are you still upset that I said no?”

“A little,” I admitted. “It was nice to be asked to join the committee.”

“Any particular reason why?”

“Oh, I suppose I was flattered, pleased that the students think I’m still capable of a bit of fun, that I’m not too old and boring.”

“You: old and boring! Never! You don’t have to do the Vice Chancellor’s dirty work on that beastly committee to prove that you’re still young and cool. And if it’s fun you’re looking for, I’ll show you fun.”

I found myself pinned to the bed and John started to tickle me and then to kiss and caress me. My laughter gave way to sighs as I succumbed to the pleasure of his healing and forgiving touch. Our discussion, at least on a verbal level, was over for the night.

In the morning I had no desire to return to the issue. I was comfortable with John’s decision. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more convinced I was by the reasons he had given me. As far as I was concerned the matter was closed and, as always, John made no further reference to my lapse. Later in the day, when the President of the Students’ Union came to my office to enquire about my decision I was able to thank him for his kind invitation and explain that pressure of work prevented me from accepting. I had promised to obey John and, on this occasion at least, it was a promise I was able to keep.

Actually, it was funny how the promise of obedience came about. Ever since John went down on one knee and delivered the romantic proposal I never thought to receive, we had been planning our civil partnership ceremony. After the disastrous collapse of our plans the previous year, we were both determined not to be sucked into all the palaver and cost of an enormous celebration. On the other hand, we did want something memorable, something we would be proud to share with family and close friends and something which was dignified and traditional.

I knew how disappointed John’s mother had been when we abandoned the first attempt to legalise our union so I wanted the day to be very special for her as well as for us. She’s been so welcoming and accepting of me and I’m sure I’m not the partner she always dreamed of for her son. I expect she once had hopes of seeing him turn to greet his blushing bride, walking up the aisle on her father’s arm, with the church organist belting out the wedding march. Mrs Hamilton-Smythe must be disappointed that John will not be joined in matrimony by the vicar in front of the assembled congregation but she has never given any such indication, either in word or deed.

John’s mother is such a stalwart of the parish church and, somehow, I wanted our union to take place in surroundings which recreated that sense of tranquillity and permanence you get in an English country church. It wasn’t that I wanted a religious ceremony, but a room in the local Register Office doesn’t come with the centuries of prayerful community use associated with a country church. We might not be allowed to have the vicar, or any reference to God, but I still had a hankering for golden stone and gothic windows. I don’t think John quite understood what I was looking for and, in any event, people and words are always going to mean more to him than buildings and decor. As a result I was the one who started hunting for the perfect venue, knowing that John would be happy with anything I chose.

In the end I stumbled upon the ideal location by accident when I was visiting a friend in Maidstone. The old archbishop’s palace in the town dates back to the fourteenth century and it’s licensed for the registration of civil partnerships. The remaining buildings stand alongside the River Medway which reflects the creamy gold of the stone and the red of the Kent peg tiled roofs and Tudor brick chimneys. The great hall can accommodate large gatherings but I discovered that the undercroft is more suitable for smaller groups. With its oak beamed ceiling and tapestry hung walls it created just the atmosphere I’d been seeking. The mullioned windows look out directly onto the river and the huge Tudor fireplace in one corner of the room, filled with one of Mrs Hamilton-Smythe’s magnificent flower arrangements, now forms the backdrop in most of our group photographs.

John was more than happy to concur with my choice. Maidstone’s proximity to London made it easy for our close friends to attend and when we started to investigate costs for the reception in Kent we found prices in the smartest hotels and restaurants were far below what we would have paid in the capital. John himself suggested asking his mother to do the floral arrangements and buttonholes. He knew how delighted she would be with the commission and nothing would content her until she had visited the palace to decide on the size, colour and placement of all her arrangements.

In fact, most of the planning was done by John’s mother and me without much reference to John. He and I did sit down one night and decide on the guest list, confining it to immediate family and close friends, but decisions on colour schemes, cake decorations and designs for invitations he was happy to delegate. There was, however, one aspect of the ceremony on which I wanted John’s opinion and, as it was a matter of words and not anything to do with the venue or furnishings, John took a keen and personal interest.

It wasn’t just that I wanted our civil partnership to be registered in a beautiful, traditional English building. I wanted us to exchange the beautiful, traditional wedding vows. The legalities of civil partnerships preclude any reference to God or religion but I thought there was nothing to stop us adapting the ancient words from The Book of Common Prayer. John could be guaranteed to know which form of words would be acceptable and which would be vetoed by the registrar. I did have an ulterior motive, too, for wanting to use the traditional language. I wanted to answer ‘I will’ to the time honoured question: Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?

There were one or two queries after the ceremony about the vow to obey but we passed them off by explaining that we’re both traditionalists who have no time for political correctness. Only our friends, Geoff and Martin, whom we’d invited to act as our best men, understood the special significance of those words. In view of the fact that, between them, the two men had rescued our crumbling relationship and Geoff, in particular, had been the source of much needed guidance on how to manage a discipline partnership, it was no surprise to hear him voice his approval of the vows we exchanged.

Just as I used the traditional words in my promise to obey John, so his vows too were based on The Book of Common Prayer as he promised to love, comfort, honour, and keep me. Had any of our friends been in any doubt as to who is the dominant partner in our union, they would have been left with no uncertainty after hearing that.

I too got a swift reminder as to who is in charge of our relationship on the morning of the ceremony. We had booked a room in the best hotel in Maidstone the night before, nothing as tacky as the bridal suite but we certainly had every luxury. However, I was so keyed up about arrangements for the following day that I didn’t sleep well in the enormous bed and only picked at the breakfast John ordered from room service. Way before it was necessary I started to get dressed in the crisp white shirt and morning suit I was wearing for the ceremony. I was nearly ready when a brisk knock on the door accompanied by the words, “It’s me,” in the unmistakable tones of Mrs Hamilton-Smythe announced the arrival of our button holes.

I had left the final choice of flower up to John’s mother. She knew the colour of our ties and handkerchiefs and she wanted to delay the decision until she actually went to buy fresh blooms from the wholesaler. She was carrying an open box with the two matching button holes she had made lying flat inside it. They each consisted of two small red roses, only partly open and exquisitely mounted on a base of leaves and ferns.

“Don’t pin these on until the last minute,” Mrs Hamilton-Smythe instructed. “Just leave yourselves enough time to get them correctly positioned on your lapels. You know how to do it?”

“Yes, mother,” replied John in the weary tone he uses to tease her when he thinks she’s fussing.

“I wish I could stay and check you both before you set out,” she added quite unabashed by her son’s amusement, “but I need to get down to the palace and set up all the vases of flowers.”

She turned briskly to leave but then stopped and returned to her son’s side. “Come here, son,” she said quietly and John stepped at once into her outstretched arms. She had to reach up but she ran her fingers through his dark hair which was still tousled from sleep. “I’m so proud of you, love,” she said. “Proud of the courage it takes to be open about yourself, proud of your choice of partner. I’m sorry your father isn’t here today; he would have been so proud of you too.”

It seemed such an intimate moment between mother and son that I moved to turn away but John’s mother reached out a hand to capture my arm. She pulled me into her embrace alongside John and kissed us both. “I want this to be the most memorable day of your lives and I wish you both every happiness for the future.” She dashed her hand across her eyes which were swimming with tears and then she resumed her usual brisk manner. “You’d better get moving, John. Richard is nearly ready and you’re hardly out of bed. Don’t you be late now.”

“No, mother, I won’t,” he responded as he closed the door behind her retreating back. He then turned laughing eyes towards me. “Well, who’s today’s good boy, then? All washed behind the ears and dressed in his finery two hours early!”

“I couldn’t sit still any longer, John. I didn’t think I’d be this nervous.”

“Come here.”

“Be careful. Don’t crush my shirt.”

“You can’t stand there for two hours taking care not to get a crease in your clothing. Get that kit off, Richard.”

“What?” I protested, laughing. “I’ve just finished getting dressed. And you can’t touch me before the wedding night.”

“Oh, can’t I? I was under the impression that you are about to promise me obedience.”

“Not to anything immoral.”

“Don’t worry. I’m not planning to violate your newly acquired virginity. I’ve got something altogether different planned for you. Now get those clothes off.”

It didn’t take much to guess what the altogether different plan might entail, especially when John picked up one of the button holes and looked at it speculatively. “I love the colour of these roses,” he said with a suggestive grin which warned me what was coming. “My mother has such perfect taste. And she’s quite right to say we must make this day memorable. I think if we start off with your bottom matching the colour of these roses it’ll give us both something to remember throughout the day.”

John sat down on the bed, making it quite clear that he expected me to get myself in position across his lap. I didn’t hurry with my undressing and it was only partly because I wanted to delay the inevitable. I made a point of placing my tail coat, waistcoat and trousers on hangers and draping my shirt and tie carefully on one of the high backed chairs. I was serious about not wanting to crease my clothing. John looked at me expectantly and moved back to make it easier for me to lie across his thighs with my body supported full length on the mattress. He was clearly getting fed up of waiting and summoned me to his side while I was still in my underwear.

“Hang on a moment, love,” I begged. “I’m not bending over your lap in my brand new boxers.”

“Why on earth not?” asked John.

“I don’t want them to get them all crushed - or worse - if you’re planning on pulling them down. They’re brand new and pure silk. They were designed to be gently and sensuously slipped over my hips tonight. They won’t stand up to rough treatment.”

“Stop stalling and get over here right now… or do I have to come and get you?” John growled.

“No, no,” I said hastily, “I’m coming.” There was nothing sensuous about the speed with which I divested myself of my boxers and pulled off my socks before scooting over to John and scrambling across his lap.

John took his time getting me positioned to his satisfaction and then he just contented himself with running the tips of his fingers across the tense flesh of my backside.

“So,” he remarked, “you’re planning an erotic show for me tonight and you’ve bought the underwear to match the mood.”

“Well, it is customary on the wedding night,” I squeaked.

“You know me, always one for custom and tradition. I’ll look forward to the show.”

“Well, I’m not looking forward to this,” I muttered under my breath but John heard me.

“Are you sure?” he asked in that tone which always gets my heart racing. “I think this is exactly what you need.”

The slap he delivered to my bottom hardly raised a tingle and I relaxed slightly in the hope that I was going to get off lightly. My understanding was that we were just playing, although John had chosen a most inopportune moment to warm my backside. A barrage of light smacks continued to rain down until I wriggled slightly to relieve the discomfort. I also hoped this would signal to John that I’d had enough and wanted to get back to my preparations for our big day. But I knew that voicing my wish was pointless. The spanking would end when John was ready and not before.

It seemed that he was nowhere near ready to stop. He turned his attention to my thighs and then returned to my poor bottom, this time striking more firmly. My wriggling turned to outright squirming and my wordless gasps became more pronounced moans. When I could hold out no longer I resorted to begging.

“Please, stop… I’ve had enough… John, please.”

There was no response from the tyrant above me who continued spanking without pause. I could feel the heat in my backside and I realised that there was going to be no respite. I stopped thinking about all the things I had to do that day. All my focus was on the present moment. I could feel the strength of John’s thighs beneath me and his slight shift of position every time he lifted his arm.

I realised I was going nowhere and had no control over what was happening to me. I was John’s to do with as he wished. As that realisation washed over me, I relaxed and stopped worrying. My sore bottom was beginning to anaesthetise my brain to all other concerns. A creased shirt, a stumble over the vows, loss of the rings, blurred photographs, a shortage of champagne: all those groundless worries faded into insignificance beside the intensity of physical sensation John’s hand was imparting. I hardly noticed when the spanking ceased and John gently edged out from under me to leave me sprawled naked, sore, relaxed and unworried on the bed.

I think I must have slept for nearly an hour. I certainly felt refreshed and calm when John woke me. He had taken a shower and was dressing but he encouraged me to eat some of my untouched breakfast before I joined him. Having caught up on missed sleep, I found I was actually hungry. I think it was just nerves which had prevented me eating earlier. As I sat up in bed I was reminded of recent events and I winced theatrically. John just grinned and I had to admit to myself that he really hadn’t done much damage. I might get an occasional reminder of the spanking every time I took my seat during the ceremony but that was not an unpleasant prospect.

When I got out of bed John turned me to inspect my bottom and made a play of comparing its colour to the red of the roses in the box. When I twisted to check up on his claims I realised he was exaggerating. My bottom was no more than a rosy pink. He put his arms round me and hugged me tight.

“This is going to be the most memorable day of our lives,” he said. “I just want you to concentrate on me. Nothing and nobody else matters. This,” he gave my bottom a light tap, “will act as a reminder throughout the day. You have nothing to worry about. None of the arrangements are your responsibility. All you have to do is commit yourself to me and I’ll take care of you. Enjoy yourself, my love. We’ve waited a long time for this.”

It was the most perfect day. Everything seemed to go without a hitch and if it didn’t, I didn’t notice. I was so happy it felt like I was floating somewhere above the mundane practicalities of the ceremony and the reception. John’s mother was in her element and I don’t know why I had ever worried about anything with her giving instructions to the guests, the caterers, the photographer and even the registrar. But it had taken John’s inspired intervention to settle my nerves and calm me down.

When it came to the exchange of vows I felt as though we were on our own. We stood at the front of the room in a beam of sunlight which shone through the mullioned windows. I looked straight into John’s eyes as I repeated my vows and tried to infuse every word with sincerity and love; I know he always understands my unspoken messages. It was deeply moving to read those same emotions in his own eyes when it was his turn to utter the words of commitment. I somehow expected him to focus on the legalistic and formal aspects of the ceremony but he was the one blinking back tears.

I stayed close to John throughout the reception and was quieter than I usually am in company. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed sharing the day with just our close friends and immediate family, some of whom were meeting for the first time. My parents had combined their first trip to Kent with a short holiday in the area and my brother and his wife flew over from Geneva to be with us for the day. Their presence, understanding and support seemed to formalise our union as much as the words we had spoken or the papers we had signed. And when the dancing was over and everyone had retired to their rooms I didn’t, in the end, get to put on that show for John. No, he undressed me himself and it turned out that he knew exactly how to remove silk underwear for maximum sensuous and erotic effect.

It had been my decision to include the promise of obedience in our exchange of vows and I was scrupulous about adhering to it. John never abused my trust and his own promise to love, comfort, honour and keep me was one he took equally seriously. The first time he required my acceptance of something I found hard, I swallowed down my customary protests and found consolation in the small sacrifice I had to make to please my partner. Actually, I can say, hand on heart, that I’ve never deliberately defied him over any major decision. It’s the smaller, inconsequential things I sometimes find difficult. There are the times when it just sticks in my craw to say yes without protest.

The invitation to serve on the Rag Week Committee was one of those times. I accepted John’s decision in the end but not without a deal of angry defiance. Even the reasons he gave were convincing, although I was left wishing he'd outlined them before, rather than after, forbidding me to accept the invitation. I suppose obedience doesn’t come with strings attached. I either do as I’m told or I don’t; obedience is not a matter of succumbing to persuasion. To be fair, John couldn’t have dealt with my resistance in a kinder or more understanding way which made me feel even more of a heel when, the next time I was speaking to the Dean of Students, I casually asked about the role of the staff representative on the Rag Week Committee. Her reply confirmed everything John had warned me about.

Alongside the reassurance of knowing that John had told me the unvarnished truth, there lay a shadow of irritation that he'd been proved right yet again. I think that irritation must have festered. It’s the only explanation I can come up with for my crazy decision to accept the next invitation I received from the Students Union. The President had been very understanding when I told him I didn’t have time to serve on the Rag Week Committee. Then he approached me again at the end of term and asked if I would be willing to give some time during the summer to help with planning Freshers’ Week. This seemed a far more innocuous activity than getting involved in Rag Week. Freshers’ Week is designed to help the new students settle in and get to know one another. It includes a fair at which all the clubs and societies seek to recruit new members. A variety of parties and social activities are arranged, all of it culminating with the Freshers’ Ball. Most of the organisation is done by the students themselves and my role would be to facilitate the use of college premises for the various events and keep an eye on what was being laid on for the first year medics.

I must have had some sense that there might be more to the job than met the eye because I decided not to tell John that I'd accepted the President’s invitation. I justified this decision to myself with the thought that I had more spare time in the summer so I would not be giving up evenings which would otherwise be spent at home with John. In addition, the format for Freshers’ Week was more or less the same every year and the events were safe and secure. I convinced myself that working more closely with the student body was part and parcel of my role as a doctor in a teaching hospital. It was not, therefore, something I needed to discuss with my partner. I certainly didn’t need his permission to accept the students’ invitation. There were no conceivable risks associated with this short term project and I went ahead, successfully ignoring the voice of conscience muttering a warning in my head.

Actually, I enjoyed working with the students immensely. They proved to be a mature and sensible bunch whose sole aim was to help the newcomers feel welcome. The programme was much as it had been in previous years and I was easily able to confirm access to the sports hall for the fair and use of the great hall and bar for the ball. The smaller parties were actually more difficult to organise and the students were all in favour of handing over some of the responsibility to an outside company which had a record of working with other universities. The company was called Wipeout UK and for a charge of £10 they arranged for students to party in some of the local pubs. They undertook to oversee the event, ensure the safety of participants and manage all the finances. It seemed like a sensible method of removing some of the burden from our small committee. I don’t remember being asked to give official approval but then I saw no problem with the proposal either.

During the first week of October Wipeout organised a number of student events with which I had no direct involvement. The first sign that there might be a problem came with reports on the internet that a student on a pub crawl organised by the company had been photographed urinating on a war memorial. The next day the photograph appeared in all the national newspapers with reports condemning the grossly offensive act. It was only a matter of time before he was identified by the police, arrested and charged with outraging public decency.

The university authorities were immediately concerned about the negative publicity for our prestigious medical school. I received an urgent email from the Dean asking me to see her immediately. I tried to tell myself that I was in no way to blame but I had butterflies in my stomach when I knocked on her door. She did most of the talking and although nothing was said about the disaster being my fault, it was made very clear that it was my responsibility to identify the student, get the full story, and produce the first draft of a press release from the university.

On the way back to my office I stopped off in the doctors’ common room to pick up a newspaper with a good picture of our student. It wasn’t difficult to find; some of the red tops carried the picture on the front page. The photograph showed his face very clearly as he urinated on the wreaths of poppies left on the war memorial, although one part of the picture was pixelated in the interests of decency. It was the work of minutes to identify the culprit from the photographs on the student database. They were listed alphabetically and his name, Aaron Brown, was on the first page. By the time I caught up with Aaron he was frantic about being the focus of a national hate campaign. He was clearly a very well brought up and rather naive young man who, I suspect, had little experience of alcohol and its effects. The main focus of his worry seemed to be the shame he had brought on his parents and family.

There seemed little point in trying to concoct an excuse for Aaron’s behaviour and, to be fair, all he wanted to do was to apologise. I worked on a draft press release, trying to use Aaron’s own words and eventually I produced a short statement which went first to the Dean of Students, then to the Vice Chancellor, and finally to the university’s lawyers. I was fairly certain that John did none of the day to day legal work for the university but I wasn’t going to invite suspicion by asking who would be reviewing the document. I was praying John would never find out about my involvement in the whole debacle.

However, there was no way he could be ignorant of the unfolding story. Everyone in the country seemed to talking about it. The newspapers were having a field day. When I got home that night John mentioned the case, reading aloud from his newspaper.

“It says here that this guy is one of your students,” he remarked. “Do you know him?”

“He’s one of the first year medics,” I replied noncommittally.

“He certainly has a good line in grovelling apologies,” John observed. I winced; I’d written most of the grovelling apology. “He says,” John continued, “I’m deeply ashamed of this photograph and sincerely sorry for my behaviour. I didn’t realise how much alcohol I had consumed that night and also I hadn’t eaten since lunchtime which worsened the effect. I have no recollection of the events in the photograph, although I recognise that this does not excuse my actions. I apologise unreservedly for any offence I may have caused.”

John stopped reading aloud and I felt it incumbent on me to make some sort of comment. “He sounds like one sorry boy,” I said lamely.

“I should think so. The press seem ready to crucify him. Listen to this: The nineteen year old, who got hammered on an all night booze session organised by student party organisers Wipeout UK, relieved himself on the memorial for the brave soldiers who died fighting for their country.”

“Let’s hope the judge who hears the case isn’t an ex-soldier.” I said feelingly before I was struck with a sudden thought. “It sounds like he needs a good lawyer. Would you take the case?”

“If I got involved with something like this I’d want to act for the prosecution.”

“Oh, come on, John. The poor lad made a mistake but you can’t accuse him of deliberately setting out to insult the fallen. He doesn’t deserve to have the book thrown at him.”

“Maybe not but I wouldn’t let Wipeout off the hook so easily. Have you read about their track record? It says: Wipeout UK has come in for heavy criticism in recent years for encouraging students to get drunk during start of term booze bingeing in cities all over the country. Organisers provide revellers with souvenir tee shirts and exclusive entry to a series of nightspots for the knockdown price of £10. The revellers tee shirts are emblazoned with each venue in the mass pub crawl and students tick off each pub or club visited with a red pen after they have downed a few drinks in the establishment. Hundreds of students get so drunk they can hardly stand up.”

“I didn’t know that,” I said weakly.

“Well someone at your institution should have known before they permitted the company to organise any part of the Freshers’ Week programme.”

I made some excuse and escaped to the bedroom where I sat down on the bed and buried my head in my hands. It was only just beginning to dawn on me what a serious matter this had become. I didn’t want to carry the burden of responsibility for Aaron on my own and I would dearly have liked to ask John for advice and help. But three months previously I’d taken the decision not to tell John about my involvement with the Freshers’ Week programme and I didn’t see how to break it to him at this late stage. I felt an irrational anger directed at Wipeout UK and at Aaron Brown. The national scandal had nothing to do with me and I didn’t see why the Dean and Vice Chancellor were expecting me to take any sort of responsibility. I’d done nothing wrong and it felt like I was the one being blamed for a public relations disaster.

When my thoughts turned back to John, sitting downstairs reading the newspaper in total ignorance of my involvement in one of the nation’s leading news stories, I could no longer maintain any outrage over my own supposed innocence. There was nothing innocent about the behaviour which had got me into this mess. Maybe others wouldn’t understand the nature of our agreement but my responsibility to John was perfectly clear in my own mind. He had forbidden me to become involved in student activities for very cogent reasons. Those reasons made even more sense to me by this point. I had not only chosen to disregard his directive, which could only be construed as disobedience, I had covered it up for three months and was still covering up. In our book that amounted to lying and there was one mutually agreed but nonetheless very scary penalty for lying.

It wasn’t fear of a caning which kept me silent, however. I sat on the side of the bed and struggled with myself but I just couldn’t bring myself to go downstairs and confess. I knew John wouldn’t shout at me and I knew, without a shadow of doubt that, once we'd dealt with my disobedience, he would give me all the support and practical assistance I needed. No, I just couldn’t face his disappointment and I had no answer to the inevitable question as to why I'd disobeyed him and covered it up for so long. It was the length of time which made confession so impossible. I could hardly claim to have given way to the impulse of the moment and I was so ashamed of the underhand deceit and the shameless way I'd justified it to myself. I determined there and then that I would never do anything so foolish again but I wasn’t going to tell John about this incident. I was awash with guilt and I decided that the awful pangs were sufficient punishment in themselves. I was just going to have to put a brave face on things and wait until the whole dreadful business had blown over. After all, the general public is a fickle audience; Aaron Brown’s story would soon be off the front pages.

I went downstairs and busied myself in the kitchen preparing dinner. John was immersed in the business section of the paper and by the time he came to join me at the table I'd composed myself. I had managed to converse with him without giving a thought to Freshers’ Week every day for the last three months. I was no more guilty that night, I reminded myself, than on any of the previous ninety or so evenings we'd spent together. I tried to put the matter to the back of my mind but it was a struggle to respond to John’s conversational gambits and once or twice I caught him looking at me speculatively. Eventually I pleaded a headache and went to bed early.

The trouble was that the story didn’t fade from the national consciousness. A little more than a month later, Aaron was up in court in front of the judge. The university authorities decided that a member of the faculty should attend and be ready, if necessary, to speak as a character witness. I argued that this was the responsibility of Mr Brown’s personal tutor but the Dean disagreed. I suspect that there had been some agreement that I would be the one to draw the short straw. There was no doubt that the court appearance would be a media circus and none of my colleagues were keen on the exposure.

“If there are questions about the role of this company called Wipeout,” the Dean said with barely suppressed annoyance, “then you’re the one best placed to answer them.”

I could have said that I knew nothing about Wipeout UK but it didn’t take a genius to work out that such a reply wouldn’t go down well. I thought it best to accede to the Dean’s request without further argument. My mind was already racing as I considered the likelihood of my role becoming public. If John found out about my court appearance it would inevitably lead to some very awkward questions.

I met Aaron Brown outside the courtroom on the day of the hearing. He was smartly dressed in a suit and tie and accompanied by his parents who looked very upset. It turned out the three of them had just been hustled into the building through the neighbouring police station to avoid the scrum of press photographers outside the building. When we entered the courtroom, every available seat was filled with reporters.

Aaron had already pleaded guilty to the charge but his parents had retained a good lawyer in the hope of avoiding a custodial sentence. Their fears were far from groundless. The judge began his summing up by stating that he had considered sending the offender to prison when he saw the image of a young man urinating on a war memorial erected to the memory of so many other brave young men.

Thankfully, I wasn’t called as a character witness although I think Aaron’s parents were grateful for my support as they were separated from their son who was seated on his own in the glass fronted dock. Their lawyer did a fantastic job. He made no attempt to excuse the offence. Instead, he concentrated on telling the court of his client’s utter remorse. Aaron was described as a talented student who had got caught up in a culture of drinking to excess. He was now terrified of the prospect of going to prison which would be a brutalising experience for a young man who would never trouble the courts again. Prison, the lawyer said, would throw into doubt his future career in the medical profession.

“Aaron Brown has paid an extremely high price for one evening of complete and utter foolishness,” his lawyer concluded, “but his remorse is absolute. It’s difficult to articulate just how embarrassed and ashamed this young man is.”

I looked at Aaron sitting in the dock with his head bowed and I felt so sorry for him. He needed someone to look after him, someone to take him in hand. My mind jumped unbidden to the role John plays in my life and I was immediately overcome with remorse as intense as Aaron’s.

Mercifully at that point the judge began his summing up and my whole attention shifted to Aaron’s fate. The judge said that he had never seen anyone before him who was more contrite and consequently he had decided to commute the sentence to 250 hours community service with an order to pay the prosecution costs. Unfortunately, the judge did not stop there. He went on to castigate the private company which organised the event, suggesting that some might say a representative of Wipeout UK should be in the dock alongside Mr Brown.

When we were dismissed, the police offered to escort Aaron out the back way but the family insisted on leaving by the public exit. Their courage was inspiring and I volunteered to go with them. We needed police assistance to get through the waiting press; even so the Browns were grateful for another body to protect their son. It was Mrs Brown who paused briefly and spoke to the waiting reporters.

“He’s sorry, so very sorry,” she said. “Both his grandfathers fought in the Second World War. He would never have wished to show disrespect.”

Then we moved on but not before I’d been captured in the glare of flashbulbs as the waiting photographers and film crew photographed the scene. It was no surprise; I’d walked willingly into the picture. I think I’d been as moved as the judge by Aaron’s obvious shame and contrition and it triggered a subconscious response in me. I felt so ashamed of keeping the whole mess a secret from my partner. I don’t have any memory of thinking it through rationally; I just knew that this was a way to tell John what I’d been up to.

Amazingly, John not only saw the pictures on the early evening news broadcast, he understood my motivation even better than I did myself. When I got home later in the evening he greeted me with the dry observation, “I see you’re rather more involved with the Freshers’ Week disaster than you’ve disclosed.”

When I started on a semi coherent explanation he held up his hand. “Let’s make a cup of tea and then we can sit down and talk about it.”

I trailed him miserably into the kitchen. “I’ve been wanting to talk to you about it for weeks,” I admitted, “but I just couldn’t bring myself to broach the subject.”

“So it was easier to show me your involvement on national television.”

“Actually, it was,” I said, the belligerence in my tone only a cover for my increasing distress. “It’s much worse than you think,” I added more quietly when I’d recovered myself a little. “I’ve been involved with the planning for Freshers’ Week right from the start. I’ve disobeyed you, lied to you and when everything went wrong and I needed your help, I didn’t have the courage to tell you what I’d done.”

I was determined not to get worked up again but I couldn’t prevent my swimming eyes from overflowing and I scrubbed angrily at my cheek to wipe away the tears. John seemed quite unmoved by my confession but he reached out and pulled me to him. His embrace brought my whole body into close contact with his and he held on tight when I tried to disengage. However great the confusion in my mind, my body always responds to the comfort and security of that embrace and I eventually relaxed against him.

“How about we pour the tea and then we can get to the bottom of all this?” he asked kindly.

I nodded and opened the fridge to remove a carton of milk. When we both had our mugs of tea we sat down at the kitchen table and John looked at me expectantly.

“Where do you want me to start?” I asked uncertainly.

“It’s usual to start at the beginning,” John said with a smile, “but I know it’s sometimes easier to start with where you are now. It’s up to you, love, just make it the truth… and the whole truth.”

“And nothing but the truth, eh?”

“You’re not in court now. By the way, were you called as a witness today?”

“No, thank God. The poor boy’s lawyer did a brilliant job on his behalf. I think if I’d stepped into the witness box the judge would have sent me to jail for booking Wipeout UK to manage the freshers’ entertainment.”

“You didn’t book them, did you?”

“No, John. I really had nothing to do with them. But the university authorities have taken rather a dim view of my contribution to Freshers’ Week.”

“Why is that?”

“Well, I suppose I gave tacit agreement when the students discussed booking Wipeout to run some of the social activities. I’d never heard of them. I didn’t know they organised pub crawls. We were told they'd worked with a number of other universities and there had been no reported problems. I was never asked to officially approve the booking but I didn’t see anything wrong with it either. John, it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t know what to do when Aaron was arrested and the story erupted in the media. I’ve had a dreadful few weeks.”

“You should have asked me, love. Surely you knew I’d help you.”

“I knew you’d help if I asked. Of course I did. But I couldn’t tell you the mess I was in. I didn’t know where to start.”

“What was the problem?”

“Well, I agreed to help with Freshers’ Week months ago and when we ran into difficulties I just couldn’t bring myself to tell you I’d been deceiving you all that time. I never mentioned it in the first place because I knew you’d say no if I asked permission. If I’m honest, I suppose I was still feeling a bit resentful that I wasn’t allowed to get involved with Rag Week… But it’s not like Rag Week, John, really it’s not. Freshers’ Week is more or less the same every year. I didn’t have much to do, just sort out some dates with the university timetable and make sure the students had access to their chosen venues.”

“So you thought it would be okay to go ahead and just keep me in the dark?”

“Not really, John. No. But I managed to convince myself it was a work related issue and something I didn’t need to bother you with. I enjoyed working with the students in the summer and it really didn’t take up much of my time. I’d stopped worrying about it by the start of term and when the whole thing went belly up I was too ashamed to ask for your help.”

“What were you ashamed about?”

“Do you want me to spell it out?” I asked, unwilling to utter my own final condemnation.      

John thought for a moment. “I think I do, Richard. I’d like to know what you think you did wrong.”

“Okay. I didn’t tell you I’d been asked to help with the planning for Freshers’ Week because I knew you’d take the same view as you did with Rag Week. So I suppose that counts as disobedience. Then I covered it up for three, no, four months and you’ll say that’s lying by omission. Finally, I did nothing to stop the students hiring Wipeout UK and when the pub crawl they organised turned into a public relations disaster for the university and a personal tragedy for the student involved I dug myself in deeper by failing to tell you about it. In fact, some of the things I’ve told you in the last couple of weeks probably count as direct lies. I’m sorry, John. I know that an apology doesn’t do much to repair the damage but I’m so sorry that I let this all get so out of hand.”

“It does everything to repair the damage, darling. You understand precisely what you’ve done wrong and you’ve said you’re sorry. That’s all I needed to hear. We’ll deal with your lies and deception and then we’ll put this behind us and move on. As far as the university is concerned, you’ve done nothing wrong and I’ll give you all the help and support you need to deal with the repercussions of this unfortunate business. As far as you and I are concerned, I think you know what’s coming, don’t you?”

“You’re going to cane me aren’t you?”

“What do you think?”

“You always cane me for lying. I knew… I knew right from the start that I’d be caned for this.”

“So go and get the cane, Richard, and we’ll get this over with.”

I put down my empty mug which I’d been cradling to give me something to do with my hands. I got up from the kitchen table and went upstairs, resisting the powerful urge to move as slowly as possible. I hate the cane, as much for what it represents as for the pain it causes. John only uses it for the most serious offences. Even then, if my fault is occasioned by thoughtlessness or sudden temptation and if I confess at once he will never cane me. The wicked implement is reserved almost exclusively for deliberate, premeditated disobedience and for lying. By the time my disobedience and lies have been brought into the open and fully examined, I’m so full of remorse that the lash of my own guilt hurts as much as any stroke of the cane. That’s not to minimise the effects of the cane. The sound of it whistling through the air is enough to make me cringe, and its crack upon impact, followed by the searing, biting sting convinces me, as nothing else can, of the need to amend my ways.

When I reached the bedroom I had to stand on my toes to reach to the back of the top shelf of the wardrobe where my fingers closed around the length of rattan. I removed it from its customary place of storage and, holding either end, flexed it thoughtfully. It took some pressure to bend the cane but I had no doubt that it would soon be curling smoothly around my backside. John has become an expert in its use, coached, as I have recently discovered, by our friend Geoff. The evenly spaced set of welts soon to adorn my backside would provide the ultimate testimony to John’s skill. I wondered how many strokes I would be getting, torn between the longing for John to be merciful and the desire to fully atone for my many months of deception. I must have struggled with the mental conflict for longer than I intended because John’s raised voice reached me clearly from the bottom of the stairs.

“Are you planning on bringing the cane downstairs or do I need to come up there and deal with you in our bedroom?”

In other circumstances it would have taken an effort of will to walk out of the bedroom carrying the implement of punishment but John’s call got my feet moving without conscious thought.

“Coming,” I shouted as I ran across the landing and down the stairs.

John took the cane from my trembling hands then steered me into the sitting room and towards the sofa which provides such firm support when I’m bent over and on the receiving end of the cane or the paddle. Anyone would think the item of furniture was chosen with this function in mind. The height of the back tips me so far forward that my feet barely touch the ground, making standing up a difficult and ungainly feat. The padded armrests provide an alternative position which I marginally prefer as I’m not so acutely bent. It makes it easier to breathe comfortably and I think John knows that as he tends to place me over an arm of the sofa when he is administering a longer punishment. However, his next firmly worded instruction brought no sense of relief.

“Take off your jacket and bend over the arm of the sofa.”

I slipped my jacket off swiftly, throwing it into the nearby armchair, and turned my attention to my trouser fastenings.

“I didn’t ask you to remove your trousers,” came the surprising comment. “Just bend over the arm of the sofa as you were told.”

I hastened to obey John’s instruction, unsure whether to feel relieved or apprehensive that John was going to cane me across the seat of my pants. I rather hoped that the smart trousers I’d worn in court would absorb some of the cane’s customary bite and burn. On the other hand I feared that placing me across the arm of the sofa and allowing me to remain dressed meant that I was in for a long and heavy punishment. John was certainly taking his time getting me set to his satisfaction. He asked me to shift forward so that my head and upper body were resting fully on the seat of the sofa. Having complied with his request I folded my arms and buried my head in the warmth and darkness of the seat cushion. Childlike, I was thus able to blot out some of what was going on around me although I was uncomfortably aware of the vulnerability of my position with only the tips of my toes now touching the ground.

I heard John move to stand behind me and I jumped as his hand connected with my bottom, only to be embarrassed by the realisation that he was simply about to smooth the fabric of my trousers across my seat. The unmistakable touch of the cane tapping against my backside a moment or two later, as John lined up the first stoke, signalled the imminent start of my punishment. I clenched my buttocks and waited but John spoke before he began to cane me, uttering just one word.


Before I could even register relief at the lenient sentence, the first stroke descended across my vulnerable and trembling bottom. The crack was somewhat muffled by the fine fabric of my trousers but considering the cost of that Savile Row suit, it did a poor job of protecting my rear end from the full effects of the punishment. I felt the searing agony of that stroke, and each of the succeeding five, as if there had been nothing between my flesh and that wicked length of rattan.

John caned slowly giving me time to catch my breath but also allowing me to experience not just the shocking initial sting but also the spreading burn of each powerful stroke. Before long my fingernails were digging into my folded arms and I was biting the sofa cushion in my struggle not to yell. But even as my eyes filled with tears, I registered the fact that John was delivering a very steady and well judged punishment. None of the strokes were crossed and I knew I’d have a very evenly spaced set of welts on my bottom by the time he’d finished. I also knew he would end the punishment in traditional style and I braced myself for the sixth stroke which descended fast, hard and horizontally across the previous five. This time I could not restrain my scream which was accompanied by an involuntary recoil which briefly lifted my body clear of the sofa. Immediately John’s restraining hand was on my back and his words of comfort and reassurance helped me collapse back onto the cushions where I shed a few tears. They were mainly tears of relief, not just that the punishment was over but that John knew the whole story and had dealt with my disobedience and deceit. I had nothing left to worry about and I could move on after a very distressing couple of months.

John left me to recover my equilibrium while he went upstairs to put the cane away. When he came back into the sitting room I was ready for a hug. He sat down at the other end of the sofa and swung his legs up to recline full length, pulling me onto his chest. I laid my head beneath his chin and felt his powerful arms envelop me so that I rested in the safest place on earth. I could hear his heart beating beneath my ear and I reflected ruefully that I could also time my own heartbeat by the rhythmic throbbing in my backside. I squirmed and jiggled my legs in an attempt to relieve the intense sting before John reached down and used both hands to rub some of the heat out of my painful buttocks.

“Only six?” I finally said with the rising intonation which implies a question.

“I thought it was sufficient to make the point,” he answered.

“Oh, yes,” I agreed hastily. “Thank you for not making me undress.”

There was just a grunt in acknowledgement so I felt bold enough to ask the obvious question. “Why didn’t you… make me undress, I mean?”

John took his time before he responded. “Well, I think I’m probably proficient enough with the cane now to space the strokes across your clothed backside. I’ll have to look tonight to check that I didn’t cross the welts… except when I meant to!”

“There’s no need for you to check. I can feel the perfect five barred gate brand on my bottom!”

“Don’t exaggerate. I let you keep your trousers and underpants on to minimise the damage. You should have no long lasting marks.”

Actually, I believed that was true and I didn’t want John to think I wasn’t grateful for his restraint. “I know,” I agreed. “I probably deserved much worse for disobeying you.”

“You didn’t disobey me.”

“What?” I asked with incredulity.

“You didn’t disobey me. I never told you that you couldn’t help with Freshers’ Week.”

“But you wouldn’t let me join the Rag Week Committee.”

“As you said yourself, Freshers’ Week is an entirely differently matter.”

“Are you saying,” I lifted my head from John’s chest, looked him in the eye and enunciated my words very slowly and clearly to make a point, “are you actually saying you would have let me help with Freshers’ Week?”

“Who knows?” he replied enigmatically. “You never asked me so I never had the chance to properly consider the matter.”

I was looking at John incredulously, recognising he was teasing me but barely restraining a bitter response. John pulled me back down onto his chest and his kiss took away all my resentment. “Listen, love,” he said. “I know how disappointed you were about my decision on Rag Week and I wouldn’t have wanted you so upset again. Most of my objections to your involvement with Rag Week wouldn’t have applied to you helping with Freshers’ Week and no one could have foreseen the outcome with Wipeout UK. What went wrong wasn’t your fault.”

“So you didn’t punish me for disobedience or for messing up over the Freshers’ Week programme?” I asked in a small voice.

“No. You know very well why you were punished. It was for one thing, and one thing only.”

John appeared to be waiting for me to supply the answer and it wasn’t difficult to oblige. “For concealing from you what I was doing; essentially for telling lies.”

“Precisely. I didn’t think we needed to go over this again.”

“We don’t. I know you’ll always decide to cane me if I tell lies.”

“Actually, love, it was your decision this time, not mine.”

“What?” I pulled out of his arms a second time to look with outraged accusation into his smiling eyes. “Are you saying you weren’t going to cane me?”

“Who knows?” he asked again. “You never gave me the chance to make up my mind; you just assumed you were getting the cane.”

“You… you… you…” Words failed me.

“Any complaints?” John asked gently when I finally subsided onto his breast.

I took a moment to give the question serious thought. I’d come home distraught in the knowledge that John must surely have found out about my lies and deception. I’d felt so ashamed and so guilty but he had said nothing to add to my mortification. Instead he’d been understanding, caring and forgiving. Even the punishment had tempered justice with mercy. I was lying relaxed and comforted in his arms, the soreness in my backside merely acting as a reminder that I’d paid the penalty for my dishonesty and the offence was forgiven and forgotten. Far from showing any sign of being aggrieved at my wilfulness, John had been gently teasing me. But underneath the kindly effort to coax me into laughter lay the serious reminder that I needed to entrust myself totally to him, to accept his decisions and defer to his judgement. It wasn’t up to me to second guess his rulings or his penalties. I realised he was giving me a timely and pertinent word of warning.

“No, sir,” I replied with conviction, “no complaints at all.”