Things had been getting better and worse over the last few months. It had been nearly four since I’d split with Eric. And I still hadn’t heard from him. Maybe I hadn’t meant as much to him as I thought. And I didn’t know why the thought bothered me so much. Obviously, I knew I didn’t mean that much to him. If I had, he never would have abused me like he had. But that didn’t stop me from wishing I had meant something. I’d like to think that I would be strong enough to reject him if he came back, but I didn’t know if that was true. I wanted to feel wanted again. I wanted to feel desired and beautiful.
I hadn’t felt that in a long time.
And the scars on my wrists and thighs, the self-inflicted ones, they didn’t help. Neither did the ones n my back from him.
I saw my friends more and more except on the weekend. They spent every weekend at Dynamite. Danny’s new Dom was the one, apparently. Ellie had been in a contract for a few months, but once again, it didn’t look like it was going to turn into anything more. Sam was still playing every weekend, usually with a different Dom, although she had a couple she rotated through. She was high off the endless orgasms and the pleasure of submitting to someone, but I didn’t understand. I couldn’t trust someone I knew with my body, let alone a different stranger every night. I wasn’t shaming her; I was actually proud of her. She was the sexually free version of herself she’d always imagined she’d be as a submissive.
The only time I didn’t cut was when my friends stayed the night or when I went to the house and spent the night with them. Soon it would just be Sam and Ellie sharing the house. Danny was moving in with Tom.
We were having one last big sleepover with him before he moved out tonight.
The BDSM segment at the station was going really well. Sam and Danny had agreed to be interviewed live on air. It was going to be over the phone, though, and not at the station. Neither of them wanted their parents to know about their kink. Which I could completely understand. I’d been avoiding my parents for months since things had fallen apart with Eric. Some day soon, my mom was just going to show up at my apartment and demand entrance. It’s not that I didn’t love them. I did. They were great parents. And if they did ever find out that I was a submissive, they’d be nothing but supportive of me.
Which was weird.
For the segment, there was just one piece I was missing; I was still searching for a female Dom.
I’d just recently gotten into contact with Crystal’s son, who was going to be the voice of our male dominant in the four week long segment. I’d asked him if he could put me into contact with a female Dom and he said he’d be happy to.
I didn’t know his name; he wanted to be kept completely anonymous, and, other than the time she’d mentioned that he was a Dom, Crystal never talked about her personal life at work. She called it having firm boundaries. She wasn’t one to mix business with private matters. All I knew was that she was happily married, and that she had at least one son.
Sitting in my still new and shiny office, the ones I’d been given after my promotion, I pulled up my station email. There was one from Crystal’s son.
Dear Miss Thorne,
Below, I have the contact information for a female Dom. Her name is Taytum and I’ve been given permission to tell you that. She’s the cousin of a close friend. Her phone number is 872-555-0001.
I received your list of questions, and I approve of them. Please make it clear to your jockeys that I will not be talking about anything personal, my name, the name of my club, and if I have a submissive are all off limits. I will gladly give my some of my personal experiences in the lifestyle as examples, general rules and misconceptions, but nothing private.
He seemed like a good Dom.
I also hope that the submissives you’ve chosen are well trained and well voiced. There has been an influx of inexperienced subs and Doms thanks to the new book craze sweeping the world, but that inexperience is leading to poor outcomes, which only further stigmatises our community.
I felt a little reprimanded.
Lastly, I think you’re very brave for bringing light to the topic of our community. So many of us live in the shadows, fearful of telling our friends and families out of shame.
Please email me with further questions and once the timeline is in place, so I can pass this to my secretary.
I read the email a few times and decided it wasn’t necessary to respond. I wouldn’t defend Danny and Sam. They wouldn’t need it, not after their interviews. He’d see that they were both well trained, well educated, and well spoken. I knew that they would do nothing to members of the community, me, or themselves.
I texted Taytum from my phone, asking her to email me so that I could forward her a list of tentative questions and the times that she would be interviewing.
Music from the station filled my office as I went through the rest of my emails. My BDSM segment idea had landed me this job, but I would need another brilliant idea soon if I really wanted to prove my worth.
Could I keep taking examples from my own life?
Self harm was taboo.
As soon as the words ‘self harm’ echoed in my mind, I felt my wrists itch. The healing scars were there to remind me of what I regularly did to myself. Unable to shake the memories from my mind, I watched the scene like a movie in my head, one I’d seen a million times but was always surprised by the ending. It was me, standing in my bathroom, a razor in my hand. Tears filled my eyes both in reality and the dream image as I pushed the razor to my skin, watching dark red blood spill from my wrists and into the sink.
My wrists burned at the contact, the pain so delightful that it made me cry in pleasure.
And then when I was finished, the tears wouldn’t stop; they’d turn into tears of shame.
But I couldn’t stop.
I wanted to stop.
But I couldn’t.
The compulsion was getting worse.
I never used to think about cutting while I was at work, but lately, it was happening more and more often.
And I hated myself for it.
The worst part was that the more I cut, the more I thought about Eric. I hated thinking about Eric. But at the same time, it was like I couldn’t stop.
I’d tried a few online support forums for victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse. They didn’t help. Reading other women’s stories didn’t give me a feeling of solidarity or help me heal my own trauma, it just made me feel like shit and want to cut.
When a new email popped up, I was happy to see that it was already the Taytum woman.
I emailed her the list of questions she could expect, mostly about her experience as a female Dom in a world that was, for lack of a better word - dominated - by men. There were the obvious questions too, had she had any formal training, how long had she been a Dom, when did she know that she had this sexual proclivity, etc.
She responded quickly and confirmed her availability for the dates of her interviews.
With that all in place, I finally replied to Crystal’s son, hoping the timeline suited his needs. It was a little flexible, mostly because the days that I was scheduled to speak were one hundred percent flexible- since it was part of my work.
“Afternoon meeting,” Crystal said, popping her head into my office.
“On my way,” I said. Quickly, I closed out of my email and grabbed my notebook before making my way to the conference room.
Afternoon meeting was with our afternoon and evening jockeys, Jamie and Jamie. One of them was a woman, and the other was a man. Had Jamie, the man, only gotten hired because Jamie, the woman, had been at the station forever and Crystal thought it would be catchy for them to have the same name? Maybe.
“Okay,” Jamie, boy Jamie, began. “You give all the good segments to the morning show.” He was clearly annoyed.
“We want a good segment,” girl Jamie said.
“Do either of you have any brilliant ideas?” Crystal asked them sweetly.
Color me shocked.
“Self harm,” I said without being asked.
“Self harm?” Crystal said. “That’s even more taboo than BDSM,” she said.
I knew that because all my friends knew about BDSM, but none of them knew about my cutting.
“So cutting?” Girl, Jamie asked, naming the most widely known form of self harm.
“That’s one form sure,” I said. “But there are others. Burning yourself, punching and hitting too. Anorexia is a form of self harm, binging too. Excessive exercise.”
“Drugs too,” Crystal added.
“How would we do it?” Boy Jamie asked.
“Definitely start with a psychiatrist who specialises in the area,” I said. “We should also absolutely begin and end and every segment with the self harm crisis number and the suicide prevention number.”
“Those aren’t the same?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “Most people who self arm aren’t suicidal. They can obviously accidentally hurt themselves by cutting too deep or in the wrong spot, or exercising until they collapse, but it’s usually not directly correlated to a future suicide attempt.”
“Okay, then what?” Crystal encouraged.
“I think we should book end psychiatrists. Do a five-week segment. Week one with a psychiatrist and week five with a psychiatrist or therapist. Then in the weeks in-between have a people who’ve recovered from self harm. Try finding someone who cut in the past, someone recovered from anorexia, and someone who’s been sober for a length of time.”
“I like it,” she said. “You’ve done very well since getting your promotion,” Crystal praised me. I loved the praise. It was part of my submissive side. I had loved it from Eric, and loved it from my parents growing up, and now I was loving it from my boss.
Turns out, having a personal life that was spiralling out of control and going up in flames was good for my career.
“We’ll start in eight weeks,” she said. “Dismissed.”
I stayed put, finishing writing a few notes.
“This isn’t like the last idea you had, is it?” Crystal asked me when it was just the two of us.
“What? No,” I said too quickly.
“Okay,” she said, nodding her head, but I didn’t think she actually believed me. Glancing down, I double checked to make sure that the sleeves of my sweater were covering my wrists. “So you don’t know anyone willing to speak?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head at her. “But I’ll start this week with finding a therapist. Maybe they can ask some of their recovered patients if they’d be willing to speak to us.”
“That’s a good idea.”
“I’ll keep you updated,” I told her.
She nodded her head at me, her sign of dismissal.
I felt naked, exposed as I walked away. Maybe I’d played my hand too soon.
And after this segment, I was going to have to come up with segment ideas that weren’t directly tied to my own life.
Back in my office, finally alone, I rolled my sleeves up, looking at the scars and fresh cuts.
Maybe this segment could help me stop too.
On my way home, I stopped at the grocery store and picked up a variety of snacks for the sleepover. I just needed to grab an overnight bag that I’d already packed and grab a ride to the side of town the house was located on. They’d probably have snacks, but with the four of us, you could never have too many.
By the time I’d made my way through all the grocery aisles and had checked out, I had close to one hundred dollars worth of junk food in my cart. And not a care in the world.
Unfortunately, I’d underestimated how much I would buy and ended up having to grab a Lyft from the grocery store to my apartment, even though it was only a few blocks. Thankfully, I was smart and ordered it as a two stop trip and ran into my apartment, grabbed my bag and was back in the car in under three minutes.
The ride to my old house took forever in the Friday evening traffic.
Danny’s new Dom would be there early in the morning with all of his Dom friends to help him move. He wasn’t even bringing a lot. His Dom lived alone and had pretty much everything they needed. I think Ellie and Sam had convinced him to beg for help so that they could finally get a look at the Doms without being in the club.
I’d need to make sure I had an excuse to bail before then.
Maybe tomorrow would finally be the day I actually did go to see my parents. That had to be better than standing in a small apartment surrounded by doms.
I looked ridiculous carrying all my grocery bags, my work bag, and my overnight bag to the house. A smarter version of me would have left my workbag in the house when I’d gone to get m overnight back, but unfortunately, smart me used up all my brain at work.
I hadn’t felt the urge to cut since the afternoon meeting. I didn’t know if it was because I knew that I would be surrounded by my friends all night and simply wouldn’t be able to or if maybe the upcoming segment had me wanting to be one of the people who could some day tell my story, the story about how I got drowned in the darkness but came out the other side a different, changed person. After all, change wasn’t always for the better.
“Help!” I shouted dramatically when I walked through the door.
“Seriously,” Ellie said, coming up to me. You could have just texted us you were here and we would have come to help you.
“Oh,” I said dumbly. I did definitely use the entire smart portion of my brain at work, leaving none of it available for my personal life.
“And we have snacks,” Sam said.
“I know, but it’s us,” I shrugged. None of them could argue with that. “I also ordered Chinese,” I said. “It’ll be here in ten minutes.”
“I ordered Pizza,” Danny said.
“I ordered Mexican,” Sam said.
“Shit,” Ellie let out a low whistle. “We really need to communicate better because I ordered Indian.”
“We’re gonna die,” Danny said.
“We’ll be fine. We’ve done worse,” I shrugged.
I put the drinks in the fridge and set all the snacks on the counter before going to the living room.
“So,” Danny began. I had just sat down when I realized they were all sitting facing me. This felt suspiciously like an intervention.
But for what?
“We know you haven’t been to any club in a while,” Sam said.
“But in two months I’m doing a scene with Tom.”
“Wasn’t that a soft limit?” I asked him.
“Yes. Soft being the key word. We’ve done a few scenes with a small audience and I actually loved it. I’m nervous, but I trust him completely.”
I wanted to trust someone like that again.
“Did something happen with Eric?” Ellie asked. “We understand that you guys broke up and that must have been hard, considering you thought he was going to be the man you spent the rest of your life with. But you seem to be completely out of the lifestyle,” she said gently.
“And you love being a submissive,” Sam added. “We all do.”
“I just don’t want to risk running into him,” I lied easily. “It would be awkward.”
“Are you worried about him having another submissive already?” Danny asked.
Yes. But not for the reasons they’d think. I’d be worried he would do to her what he did to me. “No. I was the one who wanted to end things,” I told them. “It was my decision.”
“Please come,” Danny begged.
“It’s still two months away, right?” I asked. He nodded. “I’ll think about it,” I offered.
And I meant that. I would think about it. I would think about how I could get out of it.
“Promise?” He asked.
“Promise,” I told him. He smiled at me. Before the intervention, interrogation, whatever it was could continue further, the doorbell was ringing.
The awkwardness of four delivery drivers from four different restaurants all standing on one porch was slightly hilarious. We had no issues or shame in the amount of food that was being delivered.
“Thanks!” Ellie called while they were all walking away. I couldn’t understand why they were so serious about it. It was just food. It wasn’t like we could get pizza from the Chinese restaurant. In my opinion, it would have been much more awkward to have four different pizza places all show up to deliver four different pizzas at the same time.
We spent the night eating unholy amount of junk food and watching stupid romcoms until it was nearly three in the morning. Danny kept complaining that we should go to bed and that he was going to receive a punishment if he wasn’t well rested for the move. But he stayed up anyway.
By the time we all crawled into Sam’s bed and snuggled up, I had almost forgotten that I had wanted to cut earlier that day.