Thursday, December 13, 2012

Have Yourself a Kinky, Little Christmas - Part One



Tugging Reins – 
A Christmas Short Story – 
Part One

Chris Carey snuck into the back of the private party room. All alone, he’d timed it perfectly to arrive exactly fifteen minutes late to the large-chain restaurant—the kind with all the kitschy movie and sports memorabilia hanging from the walls—hoping to be the last person there. And, just as he’d expected, no one in the crowded, boisterous room noticed him as he slid, shoulders slumped in on himself, into a seat at the far end of the room.

A munch, huh?

It wasn’t what he’d been expecting. When he’d thought about kinky parties, he imagined lots of leather and equipment and…well, kink.

And, true, this wasn’t a party, per se. Not a play party anyway. More like a meet-up. A mixer. It reminded him of his college orientation actually. A room full of people whom he didn’t know, wasn’t sure how to get to know, and wasn’t entirely certain he wanted to know.

But he wanted to know about kink. And all the sites he’d been to—the good ones anyway—had said that munches were the way to go. To get a foot in the BDSM door.

So he’d come.

Adjusting his glasses, he watched from the back as a black woman—tall and beautiful with a brash, throaty laugh he could hear over the sound of the chatter in the room—stood up and grabbed the room’s attention. Another woman, a fellow redhead like him—plump but pretty like a cross between a Rubens’s painting and a pin-up girl all wrapped up in a business suit—stood next to her.

Chris half-listened as the women made introductions and announcements, pointing out moderators and giving dates for fall classes and events. Mostly, he studied the room. Adjusting his glasses, he noticed that there was such an odd mix of people. At twenty-two, he was among the youngest in attendance—definitely the youngest male. Most of the men in the room were in their thirties and forties. There were even men in their fifties—maybe even sixties.

Most of the women were young still—a fact he definitely noticed. While there was still a wide range of ages among the women, the median age hovered somewhere in the late twenties. Idly, he wondered if that boded well or worse for him.

He knew that the open invite on their site had said that, if one wanted to become a member of Donovan’s—the local kink club—they ought to establish a good reputation within the community as a whole. He needed at least three references from current members before he could even be considered for membership. And munches were a good way to form connections.

But Chris wasn’t great at establishing connections. Kind of quiet, he tended to keep to himself, finding his books better company than other people. 

But even the best books couldn’t quite provide what he was looking for, just couldn’t satisfy the growing desire he felt with every site he visited and every book he read on it. A real experience.

But, as his gaze flicked from person to person in the room, anxiety warred with desire. How was he supposed to know who was a current member and who were just the curious and uninitiated like him? He supposed he could ask, but what was the proper protocol for that? Chris sighed as he bit his lip and ran a hand over his close-cropped, red hair. He wished he’d paid better attention to the women who’d announced the moderators.

Swallowing hard, he unbuttoned the first button of his polo shirt and felt sweat collect on the back of his neck. He should leave. Maybe read a little more about all of this before trying again. 

Yes, research. 

More research was exactly what he needed. He was sure of it. He’d do better next time.

He waited until the waiters started to make their way around the room, taking food orders while the plain-clothes kinksters mingled, before slipping out of the room again, as unseen leaving as he’d been entering.

———

Chris almost groaned audibly when he heard the snooty, know-it-all voice coming from the other side of the bookshelves. He let his head fall forward and his shoulders stoop low. Oh, just what he didn’t need. After a day filled with classes, he really hadn’t wanted to come to work. As much as he loved books, Cover To Cover was not where he wanted to be. 

Especially if Danielle Atali was working.

Danielle was a holiday employee. Temporary. Transitory. A rare, posh, private-school, rich kid slumming it in retail hell. Really only here for the holiday discount and a place to go between semesters while she stayed with her parents during break, she worked—maybe—ten hours a week while school was still in session. 

Not that you could tell from her attitude. She acted like she were a manager and had the tendency to treat him like a subordinate despite the fact that he’d been working here for four years to help pay for college and not the four weeks between the Thanksgiving season and Christmas.

And she was rude! To her coworkers and the customers. Sure that she knew better than everyone. Knew what you should read. Knew how things ought to be stocked and displayed. 

They’d had to completely redo the front holiday display because—being Jewish—Danielle had felt personally slighted by how small and shoved-to-the-side the Chanukah portion of the display was. Never mind that she was non-practicing or that she thought the whole holiday season was recycled, crass, over-commercialized crap. She’d called the regional director and even emailed corporate anyway.

She was stubborn.

“No,” he heard her say over the highly stacked books, “you don’t want that book. The author of Steele’s Edge is a frigid, old cow with no idea what she’s talking about.”

There she went again. Frustrated, he took off his glasses to press his fingers against his eyes, hoping to relieve the tension pressing behind them.

With an internal growl, he sighed, put back his glasses, and began to make his way around the shelves to save the sale she was killing.

“Now this book,” he heard her say with cocksure certainty, “is much better. The man who wrote this, unlike Elliette Roberts, has not only actually had sex in more than the missionary position, he’s also taken more than an intro to creative writing class at the annex.”

Straightening, Chris held his breath for a second before turning the corner. Oh God. Did she just say what he thought she’d said? What section where they in? 

Not romance—that was closer to the front, next to science fiction and fantasy. Not self-help and relationships—that was on the other side of the store, near cooking and home repair. 

Chris looked up at the genre labels on the sides of the shelves. Cultural studies and alternative lifestyles.

Oh God.

His shoulders fell in shock. He knew where they were. 

Cover To Cover boasted an incredibly broad variety of books for a mid-level, local chain, used bookstore in a mall by the beach. In a trendy, more artsy community, it stocked in harder-to-find, niche genres and topics.

“But, if you’re looking for really good fetish writing,” he heard Danielle say with startling authority, “I would suggest not going the fiction route and dive straight into the more memoir-ish books. You’ll get less of the softcore fluffy stuff and the shock-value hardcore mess in favor of just real, honest kink.”

Sexual health and instruction. 

A section Chris knew very well.

Not that he’d ever bought a book from that section at Cover To Cover. Despite his employee discount, Chris had never used—would never use—it to buy those books at his job. If he could help it, he never even passed that part of the store. As if being in its presence would somehow point to that part of him that felt pulled to it. As if it would know him. Would recognize him. And, seeing them together, everyone else would know too.

“Hey, Carey,” Danielle said as she shoved an armload of books into his arms, knocking his glasses askew and forcing his slouching shoulders back as he balanced the stack of books, “do me a favor and ring up this customer, will you? Credit me for the sale though, ‘kay?” She smiled at him, reaching up to straighten his glasses condescendingly. Her smile widened even when her dark brown eyes twinkled pointedly. Knowingly. “Thanks.”

Chris glared at her, wondering exactly what she thought she knew. He watched her saunter away, rearranging the holiday display and mixing Santas with menorahs and dreidels with elves, before he turned to the sixty-ish woman next to him.

“She’s a wonderful saleswoman, isn’t she?” The woman who reminded him far too much of his own grandmother—and there was a thought that he didn’t want to think about—let out a wistful sigh.

“Yeah,” he grumbled, shifting the books in his arms so he could fix his glasses, before trudging to the counter to ring the old woman up.

It was because she was pretty, that was why Danielle thought she could push people around. Twist them around her little finger. Make them jump at her every word.

Don’t get him wrong. Danielle was pretty. Beautiful. Tall—a couple of inches taller than him—and sturdily built, she had the kind of body that invited the imagination. More often than he would like, Chris found himself wondering what she looked like out of her shapeless Cover To Cover smock. Did the deep arch of her back sweep sweet the way he pictured in his head? Was her ass soft and full or tight and firm? What color were her nipples?

Often, he would try to imagine her naked, her cloud of riotous black curls storming around her shoulders. But, having seen precious few naked women outside of the polished borders of a photo or the altered frames of film, his mind always fuzzed on the details.

Oh, he knew the exact shape of her wide, dark, expressive eyes. Knew the slick slide of her painted mouth, always smeared with dark, glossy color that left the lingering taste of berries or sweet mulled wine in his mind. Had memorized the curve of her smile and the form and feel—however brief and perfunctory—of her hands.

Everything else…his mind seemed content to fill in the blanks with hazy remnants of fantasy. Under her boxy smock, Danielle—he imagined—would have the proportions of a pin-up girl. Would moan like a porn star. And would bow to his whim like a nubile slave.

“Hey, Carey,” she said, that slick, lipsticked mouth set in her usual smirk, “bring that box of Santa crap back to the storage room, will you? I’m going to grab some books from the new age section; I think the front display could use some winter solstice pizzazz.”

Chris grumbled inaudibly and moved from the counter to grab the box. 

“Oh,” she added over her shoulder while she brazenly waltzed back to the religion section like she owned the place, “and turn off that damned muzak disc; if I hear some pop star butcher ‘Jingle Bells’ one more time, I’m going to go crazy.”

Box in hand, Chris kept walking, pretending to not have heard that last bit.

———

Chris, determined to do this munch-thing right this time, tried a new tactic. Arriving fifteen minutes early, he’d waited in the restaurant—a spacious, upscale, fast food chain this time—on the lookout for the moderators, while he nervously nibbled at the food that, despite his usually voracious appetite, he’d ordered more to look like he belonged than out of any kind of hunger. This time, he would try to snag a seat at their table. 

He knew the main munch moderators, Pip Jones and Max Wells, from Donovan’s website. Had seen their pictures and read blurbs and searched them on the internet. He’d even sent them a couple of emails, introducing himself and telling them that he’d be at the munch. He’d also asked a few questions about etiquette and protocol.

He was prepared this time.

He sat up, stiff-spined, when he heard the door open. Max Wells, the Rubenesque redhead, walked in with an Asian-looking guy with weird hair followed by Pip Jones, the brazen black woman. 

And Danielle.

Chris sucked in a hissing breath. What was she doing here?

He watched her talked animatedly with Pip Jones, both women laughing while they wove their way through the tables.

Chris shrunk in his seat, curling his body inward, and stared steadfastly at the half-eaten food still in front of him—what little hunger he’d felt before completely gone now—hoping to go unnoticed. How could this be happening to him? He must just have the absolute worst of luck. 

“Carey?” 

Idly, he wondered what the opposite of a Christmas miracle was before he gritted his teeth and turned to look at Danielle. “Hi.”

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“Carey?” Max Wells turned around. “Chris Carey?”

Chris just blinked behind his slightly smudged lenses as his shoulders lowered and his head popped up curiously. They remembered him?

“The guy who emailed us?” Pip Jones asked with a curious smile. “Like, six times?”

He winced and stooped low again. Were they laughing at him?

His jaw clenched and he felt his breath choke in his throat.

They’d emailed him back, thanking him for his interest and his questions and promising to chat with him at the munch. Had they been making fun of him while they wrote him back? Digitally laughing behind his back?

“Welcome.” Max Wells stuck out her hand, an inviting smile on her face. “Wanna come back to the party room and help us set up? Maybe we can answer some of those questions you had.”

With his face flushing almost unbearably hot, he lifted a lowered shoulder in a half-hearted shrug, not knowing what else to do at that point but follow them. Together they all pushed tables and chairs together and talked. 

About who you called Master and Mistress and when. “Never call anyone by a title automatically;” Pip had said with a tsk, “there are few things more awkward than someone acting as if they’re in-scene before anyone has agreed to anything. I’m not anyone’s Mistress and I’m sure as hell not anyone’s slave, assuming that I am on first meeting…well, it’s making an ass out of someone and it sure isn’t me.”

About how you go about finding play partners. “It’s a lot like finding any kind of partner,” Max had told him. “There’s no magic formula. No secret passcodes. You just go up to a person and talk to them, just one person to another. Be nice and fun and put your best foot forward. And, if they think you’re a good time and you think they’re a good time, maybe something could develop. And, even if it doesn’t, at least you both still had a good time.”

About how you know what you’re into. “You just try stuff,” Danielle had said with a shrug. “Something you read about in a book. Or something you heard about from a friend. Or something the person you’re with wants to give a go. You just give it a shot, see how it feels. If you don’t like it, don’t do it again. If you do,” she’d shrugged again, “jackpot.”


Read Part Two Here

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