by Robin Harrington
Leighton Harlington's Diary: Thursday 13th October, 1921
There are times when I have the sense I really do not recognise myself.
Last night I punished Felicia, punished her physically, gave her a walloping.
She had exasperated me by her time keeping, or lack of it. She let me down in front of our guests. The Colonel, in front of the Colonel! Then later, when I tackled her, her attitude seemed, what? Casual. Yes, that's the word, casual.
Is it sufficient to justify what happened? On balance I do think it is.
I went to her room and found her in her nightdress. I put her over my knee and spanked her bottom, her bare bottom. I didn't plan to, though I was very annoyed. Somehow, I just found I was doing it.
I do love Felicia so. Yes, I love her to distraction, entirely frail and perfect. She represents for me something unspoiled and untarnished after all the filth and degradation of the war. Three years ago now and more since it ended, yet still it is here with me, even now. It's not just the wound, it's something else, something lost, defiled.
There are times when I think Felicia frightens me. No, that's wrong. Then what is it? I think I am actually frightened of the feelings she evokes in me.
I realise marriage implies some degree of sexual contact, but it is as if am besmirching her when we do that thing, that bed thing. It degrades us both and sullies my vision of her as pure and perfect.
That being so, how do I explain what happened last evening? There she was, pinned over my knee and me smacking down on her lovely, small, white bottom until it turned bright crimson. Even as I write this the memory remains vivid, palpable. The sting on my palm, the feel of her flesh, the way it trembled slightly when my hand landed. She did not struggle. Perhaps towards the end she did wriggle about some. Now, thinking about it again, I suspect her wriggling might actually have added to the allure of it all.
And for her? It was as if she simply accepted it.
What I find most difficult to explain is how spanking her, smacking her rear end as she lay across me was terribly arousing. I tremble to write this, but as soon as I stopped smacking her, I took her, there and then, on top of the bed, with the lights still on. It was extraordinary. To my shame I have to admit I felt a surge of delight, the like of which I have never experienced before. What does it tell me about myself? About the sort of man I really am?
In spite of the animal carry on which followed, I still think punishing her the way I did was the proper thing. She is still young, barely an adult, and as a consequence there are times when she behaves quite like a child. It must be for her good in the long run for me to impose my will now. If we are to be truly happy she has to learn, while she is still immature and malleable, that there are lines which cannot be crossed, standards which must be maintained. She has to come to understand there things which really matter, really matter to me.
I know in some senses I am not a whole man. It's not just the leg. We are all damaged, those of us who came back. But this much I can do for Felicia, if nothing else. I can help her become steady, to blossom, to grow into a wife and mother who is able to preserve the tranquillity and good order I require.
I'm off to Bishopstoke tomorrow for a weekend's fishing with Jeremy and Charles. Charles' cousin, whom I have not met, is to join us. The break will provide me with a calm space to consider what has happened.
Just a note. Something has happened which I simply must discuss with you, if I can pluck up the courage to do so!
Are you in town over the weekend? I am up tomorrow, to stay with Margo. Leighton is to go fishing in Hampshire with some cronies of his, which means I'll be there at least until Monday. There will be aunty duties of course, adorable children, but it would be very nice if we could meet for a tête-à-tête. If it is possible drop a line to me at Margo's.
Your note arrived this morning. It would be lovely to see you. I am intrigued. How about tea here, Saturday afternoon, say about half-past three? Telegram if not able, aunty duties and so on, but otherwise I will look forward with keen anticipation.
Saturday afternoon, on a slightly faded horseshoe-backed sofa in Tatiana Ransonova's flat two women were sitting with a tea tray before them. The younger, Felicia, who had turned twenty the previous March, retained a certain girlish fragility. Her dark hair, fine and wayward, her complexion fresh and clear adding to the sense of youth and freshness she always radiated. She had eyes with the facility to change from almost grey to a startling cornflower blue. Aware of this about herself, she often chose to wear blue, as she had that day: a pale blue costume, short jacket, long skirt with a white high-necked blouse.
Tatiana Ransonova was only five years older, but gave the impression of being someone who has gained much experience of life, too much, perhaps. She had on a long, loose-fitting silk jacket, which could almost have been a dressing gown, decorated with brightly coloured, exotic birds against a red background. It was worn over a black dress which held her tight in the midriff, emphasising a quite large bust. Her shining black hair, as always, was pulled severely back from her face, and pinned with not a lock out of place.
"Now Licia, I've been dying to hear what's happened." Tatiana's voice was still strongly accented, though she had been in England for two years.
"Well," Felicia replied, "now it comes to it I'm not sure I know where to begin or what I should say. But yes there was something."
"Something terrible, or something delightful?"
"I'm not sure I know Tatti, it's a bit of both, I think. I find I am rather confused really, and it's not easy, but here goes. You know I've told you the being married business hasn't quite lived up to expectations?"
"In the bedroom department," Tatiana said with a knowing smile.
"Well yes, that." Felicia felt a slight blush warm her face. "It's difficult because I do admire Leighton so, and I fell in love with him on sight of course, and he is splendid really, but about some matters he always seems... how can I put it? Somehow reluctant."
In her mind Felicia was transported back five months to her wedding night. Leighton had borrowed a car in which he drove them away from their reception. He had not told her where they were going, but at last they had stopped in front of The Bull in Burford.
"When I was up at Oxford," Leighton said, "some of the chaps and I would come out here sometimes. I always loved the Cotswolds and Burford in particular. I made a promise to myself that when I married I would bring my bride here to The Bull. And now I have."
Felicia smiled a nervous smile. It was obvious they were newly-weds and the implication of their first night together would be clear to everyone. She was not completely unprepared for the event, however. During the last eighteen months of the war she had been a volunteer at the Wandsworth Hospital. She had fed men, changed their dressings, and given them bed baths which meant the details of the male anatomy were known to her.
In fact all the details of Leighton's anatomy were known to her. He had been a patient there after he was shipped back from Italy. He had taken a shrapnel wound in the right buttock and thigh and she had been involved in his care through the Summer and Autumn of 1918. She had fallen in love with him over those months. Of course she had not let him know, for it was not considered proper for girls working with wounded officers to allow 'relations' to develop. They had met again the following Summer at a gathering in town. Seeing him once more had only confirmed for Felicia how deeply she loved him. Leighton's courtship of her began from that time, but she had already decided she would marry him.
The dining room had seemed a bit too hushed, and Felicia darted glances round the room to see if anyone was giving them knowing looks.
"Food here's good English fare," Leighton said. Good English fare proved to be stringy meat accompanied by damp vegetables, followed by something which was called trifle.
"No coffee for me, thank you Leighton." Felicia held his gaze for a moment. "I think I'll just go up." She gave him a quick smile.
"Of course, of course," Leighton said rising from his seat, "I'll be up in a little while."
It the bedroom Felicia undressed, put a dab of cologne behind each ear and put on the cream silk nightdress bought especially for the occasion. She looked at herself in the mirror hoping Leighton would think she looked nice. She sat on the bed for some minutes, but no Leighton. After a while she stood, went to the door and put her ear to it, but could hear nothing. In front of the mirror she smoothed the silk of her nightgown, allowing herself to be pleased by the way the material silhouetted her body. She returned to sit on the bed, beginning to be a little worried, and a little cold.
When Leighton finally arrived it made Felicia jump. He did not look at her, did not speak, he just took off his jacket and hung it, with exaggerated care, in the wardrobe. Still on the far side of the room, he finally turned to look at his bride, the lovely girl sitting on the bed, waiting patiently for him. For at least a minute he simply stood, making Felicia feel quite shy but also a little worried he was perhaps disappointed in what he saw and was regretting having married her.
Leighton took a step towards her. "Stand up, and take off your nightdress."
Felicia was taken aback by what sounded more of an order than a request. However, she stood, slowly slid the straps from her delicate shoulders and let the silk shimmer to the floor. She could not remember anyone ever having seen her entirely naked since she was an infant. Hers was not the sort of family who employed lady's maids, and the bathroom had had a lock. Even at boarding school, girls changed modestly, putting their nightdress on over their underclothes before taking them off.
She stood in front of him, feeling the chill of the May air on her skin, conscious her nipples had stiffened. Is it just the cold, or the excitement of Leighton seeing me, seeing me like this, for the first time, she'd wondered.
Leighton's eyes stayed fixed on her naked form, for what to Felicia, seemed an age. Then quite abruptly he took her by the shoulders, keeping her at arm's length, and turned her round, very slowly. As she completed the turn to come face to face with him once more, she saw he was weeping.
"You are perfect." His voice was a whisper. "Perfect, entirely lovely. I'm sorry Felicia, so sorry."
"Sorry? Why sorry?" Felicia's concern at his distress distracted her from her own self-consciousness.
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