Here I am. Naked in front of a man for the first time in five years. For the first time since my divorce. I hope with all my heart this will be the last man who will see me this way. That I’ll be able to give myself to him fully, perhaps even more than he knows. There’s only one last piece of my plumage left to give way and though I see motion out of the corner of my eye, it takes longer for his touch to reach me than I’d expect, as if he hesitated.
But then his hands are roving the tightly wound scarves, searching for the place to start. He doesn’t ask for help, so I don’t give him any, but let him fumble until he finds the place where the ends are pinned. He unwinds the bound length and lets it rest against my back.
“I’ve been dreaming of this.” His voice is thick with desire or emotion. It’s difficult to tell which because I can’t see his face. “Every night for weeks, I’ve dreamed of you coming to me. I could imagine your body, but this…this was a mystery.”
Reverence. That’s what colors the timbre of his voice.
I know what my students and the other faculty say about me and probably most of the strangers I see walking down the street. They think I’m foolish and old-fashioned and anti-feminist. I’m not. I understand that sometimes my secular and my religious beliefs come into conflict. I have no excuses to offer. It may seem hypocritical, and yet this is what feels right for me.
But I think if they could hear Elan’s voice at this moment, his hoarse words, they might understand. Covering my hair isn’t about being oppressed. It’s about honoring my faith, but also about giving a gift and in so giving, bringing a man easily twice my weight and a good foot taller than I am to his knees. Having him so consumed with thoughts of me that I occupy his dreams.
With sweetly graceless movements, he begins to unwind the cloth from my hair and when he sees it, there’s a whispered exclamation. “Red.”
His movements become faster, greedy as he separates the scarves from my hair and the locks fall down my back. Then he’s finger-combing through it, separating the strands that have been twisted together under my tichels all day. Five years is a long time to not get your hair cut and mine falls to my waist.
“No. Not red. Auburn,” he says and I can’t help but preen. I’ve always thought it was a pretty color and I’m glad he likes it.
We stumble awkwardly over to the bed — his side or mine? — and he pushes me onto it before he strips his own clothes. Perhaps someday he’ll let me do it but for now I’m content to watch as he peels off his wedding finery and yes, his kippah.
I could stare at him all day, memorize the broad lines of him, but he doesn’t give me the opportunity. He grasps my ankles and swings them onto the bed, making me collapse on the pillows in the process. My shocked giggle is cut off by him settling over me, his hips between my legs and an arm propping him up above me.
“What do you need from me, Tzipporah? Tell me. I won’t have you until you’re ready.”
Bless those conscientious chossen teachers who make it clear to grooms that it’s the man’s responsibility to make sure his wife is ready and willing. People can talk smack about the keeping kosher and hair covering all they like, but this is definitely something Judaism got right.
I’m tempted to fantasize myself to wetness, keep my secrets tucked safe inside because he’s already laid me bare enough for one day. But I don’t want to take that from him, the opportunity to please his partner. Not after he’s asked. And perhaps, if I’m the luckiest woman on earth, he might indulge me. And if he won’t…
It’ll be fine. It will. He’s real enough, control distilled, that it’ll be easy to tell stories about him in my mind while he lies atop me and thrusts inside. I’m lucky in some ways that orgasming is such a mental exercise for me. But what I wouldn’t give to come from what was actually happening instead of the yarn I spin in my head…
So when he strokes his thumb across my cheek, his big hand cradling the side of my face, I tell him. “I…”
Well, I try.
“I…” Oh, big breath. Maybe if I hadn’t studied him for so long from afar, I wouldn’t notice the slight rise of the center of his eyebrows. But I have, so I do. This is his curious face. What is my crazy wife going to say?
“I like to be…hurt.”
Even through my rapidly fluttering eyelashes I can see his eyes grow wide and his nostrils flare.
“Hurt?” he echoes, and the heat in my cheeks grows more intense.
“Yes.” This is profoundly uncomfortable. Perhaps I should’ve kept this to myself after all. I can’t take it back now, but maybe I can slowly back away from the elephant I’ve just lobbed into the middle of the room. “But—”
I don’t need it. Yes, I do. This was part of the reason I left Brooks. Because he wouldn’t give this to me. Couldn’t. Why am I pretending that’s not true?
“Do you like to be spanked, little bird?”
Now it’s my turn to be surprised. His tone isn’t cruel or mocking. It’s sweetly enticing, like honey dripping from apples. Or perhaps something not quite as sweet. Darker, earthier, more lingering than honey. Molasses.
Breathing around the wings beating at my heart, I moisten my lips between my teeth.
“With just a hand or more than that?”
Thinking of what damage his substantial palms and strong fingers might do, I breathe, “A hand to start.”
He nods. “To start.”
“But perhaps something more than that?”
Turns out I don’t actually need to be hurt to get turned on. All I need to do is talk about it with his dark eyes laser-focused on me. Between my legs, there’s a growing heat and sensitivity. If he slipped a hand between us, he’d find me wet. But instead of reaching down to the apex of my thighs, he slides his hand toward the back of my neck, fingers twining in my hair and closing. It makes my lips part.
“And besides being hurt, are there other things?”
“Other things?” I try to look innocent, but the tightening at my scalp and the shake of his head tell me he’s not buying it.
“Don’t tease me. Tell me the truth. What else?”
The beat of wings about my lungs grows more intense and I struggle to breathe. “Restraint. I like to be restrained.”
“My little bird likes to be kept in a cage?”
“That’s not how it feels.” It’s difficult to explain, but even though I’m being controlled, even when — maybe especially when — I can’t move an inch, it makes me feel like I can fly away. Like the strings that keep me tethered to the ground have been cut and I can finally launch myself into the sky where I belong.
“It’s not, is it?” His fingers knead the nape of my neck as he studies me. “It makes you feel free.”