Northern France. August. Thirty one degrees and sunny. The town square laid out like the scene for a GCSE role play – charcutier, boulangerie, tabac, pharmacie – and barely any of it open for business.
‘Role play.’ The very words make her squirm, and he knows it. He is eyeing up the sign outside the shuttered bar, a busty blonde with cartoon blusher holding a board with holiday dates crudely chalked up on it.
‘Shame,’ he says. ‘I could just fancy a beer.’
They are staying in the hotel on the town square, just for a few days, and she can tell he’s itching to cause trouble. Trouble for her, that is.
She has a friend who likes the role play thing. Who frequently plays at being strangers with her boyfriend in the bars of top London hotels, only to fuck in a huge room, with a big bed, and an equally huge bill at the end of the evening. It sounds fine, she thinks, but it lacks the possibility of humiliation. Sadists trump strangers, in her opinion.
They head back to the room, and he rifles through her luggage. He finds a pink shirt, a short skirt. He lays them out on the bed. And then, without explanation, he disappears again, the heavy door slamming loudly shut behind him.
When he returns, he’s carrying a bag from the toyshop, which, inexplicably, *is* open, and a scuffed metal tray with a white cloth, two beers and two glasses. He makes her change into the shirt and skirt, without wearing a vest underneath, as she usually would. Her tits strain against buttons unused to containing them. The bag contains a plastic, jewelled tiara, meant for a little girl. She fights the urge to giggle.
He puts her hair up himself, pulling it tight before he secures it with an elastic, a promise of good things to come. Her NARS orgasm blusher, though, serves his intentions poorly – he cannot rouge her up in quite the cartoon style he’d like, but he does his best, and when she sees herself in the mirror she is duly amused and horrified in equal measure, because she suspects this spectacle won’t be confined to their room.
He fashions a makeshift apron from the cloth on the tray, asks her to step into the highest heels she’s brought with her and says, ‘J’aimerais deux bières au square, s’il vous plaît, mademoiselle.’
His French is good, but she has to force herself not to laugh at his accent. He’s not, she reminds herself, the one who’s supposed to be being humiliated here.
She gives him enough time to get downstairs and settle himself in. To be totally honest, she needs the time to psych herself up. She goes to the window, and looks out, trying to calculate the worst case scenario. There are very few people around, and from this angle she cannot she the tables where he’ll be sitting, but she can see an old man with a little dog, who she fears will wave his stick and shout at her only to then fantasise about her for weeks.
The stairs, narrow and winding, are tricky. The combination of the tray, which means she can’t see her feet, and the heels, make her anxious. But she makes it safely down, and is rewarded with a mercifully empty bar.
In the square, it takes her a while. She is looking for a single guy, but what she finds is a man – her man – sitting with a pretty blonde. She freezes. He beckons her over. He takes the beers, puts a 10 euro note on the tray. The girl he’s with looks bemused. She glances up. The old man looks away, pained.
And she scurries back up to the room, where she will wait, alone, for almost two hours, wondering if they are still just playing.