He sits across the aisle from me, displaying all the outer trappings of wealthy convention; a suit, good shirt with gold cufflinks and a smart leather briefcase open on the table. The carriage is mostly empty so he has four seats and a table to himself. I watch him from hooded eyes, pretending to be asleep because I recognise this man. I don’t exactly know him, but I know what he is and why he is on this train. His actions give him away as clearly as if he wore a sign.
An hour from London he delves into a deeply recessed pocket in his leather case and retrieves a large, brown envelope, fat enough to contain a paperback book, though what it actually contains is rather more interesting.
A second foray produces another envelope, this one white and empty. Glancing across the aisle, accepting my slumped posture and seemingly closed eyes as evidence that he is alone, he transfers crisp bank notes from the brown envelope to the white, counting them carefully. Satisfied he has the correct number of notes, the envelope, unsealed, is transferred into the inside pocket of his suit jacket. He closes his briefcase.
I know why the envelope remains unsealed. Soon after arriving in her apartment he will, unbidden, place it on a table. She will not acknowledge it. Neither of them will want this commercial transaction to intrude on their greeting. Their relationship is not a new one, and they are comfortable in each other’s company. The fact that the envelope is unsealed allows her, should she choose, to check the payment while he showers. She is a Mistress, a Dominatrix. One could, perhaps, imagine him meeting with an escort for more conventional sex, but something about his nervousness makes me give him a Mistress.
A few minutes pass. He retrieves the envelope, removes a fountain pen from his case, and draws a single large letter in an elaborate script. He underlines it with a flourish. A pause, as he thinks for a moment, before carefully adding two crosses with his pen; rather small, discrete crosses. The envelope is returned to his pocket, the pen to his briefcase.
He sends a text; receives a reply that elicits a fleeting, nervous frown. From my position across the aisle, I wonder what she’s said to him. ” I hope you’re up for this because I’m feeling vicious” or “I’ve got a new whip and you’re going to hate it” are possibilities. The message is designed to heighten the anticipation and fear before they meet. It’s a game they’ve played often but it still works.
His frown turns to a smile. A second time the envelope is retrieved from his pocket. Extra notes are added. It’s a tip, though he thinks of it as a gift. Should she count the money, the extra notes will earn him a soft kiss on the cheek and an “Oh, how generous, you shouldn’t have!” The brief intimacy will seem a fair reward, a delicious contrast to the cruelty ahead.
He orders shortbread to go with his tea from the trolley service. I suspect he’s looking for an intake of sugar to provide the energy he will need in his upcoming BDSM session.
He breathes deeply. I sense a steadying of nerves, someone preparing himself for a trial.
As the train rushes towards London, I see his fingers stray into the inside pocket of his jacket, as if to check the envelope is still there.
For the last twenty minutes of the journey he sits still, eyes unfocussed, seemingly lost inside himself.
He’s contemplating what is to come.
He’s nervous, excited, aroused.
I wake up as the train pulls into London. Looking across the aisle I am surprised to see the man and his briefcase have gone. His group of seats is occupied by a young family excitedly gathering the detritus from their journey; his book, her handbag, the children’s games; all talking at once, anticipating their evening in the city.
I wonder what happened to him.
Picking up my briefcase I head along the platform, fingers straying into the top pocket of my jacket, as if to check the envelope is still there.
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