Love/Hate

A Short Story

He didn't say anything when he answered the door and found me standing before him in a long, black coat, buttoned up as high as it would go. He didn't need to. He knew what I was there for. We both did.

He stepped out of the way and let me into the room - a cheap motel room in a shitty building just a few miles off the interstate. The room itself was mostly enshrouded in darkness, (appropriate for what was about to occur here), broken only by the television that he had been watching before I arrived, and a single ceiling lamp suspended by a chain. The light swung back and forth above a wooden chair placed directly in the middle of the room, lighting it for a moment before it moved to the empty, off-white carpet an inch or so away, then swinging back to the chair.

There was a portable heater plugged into the wall closest to the chair, where a double bed stood. Judging by the temperature in the room, he had probably been here for a couple of hours already. Various objects, all metal, were placed on an old, torn up towel that he had set on the carpet, directly in front of the heater. I swore I could almost see them turning red in the wake of the heat. (Though that could have been my imagination.)

He closed the door behind me, locking out the cold, then turned to face me. He still didn't speak - the look on his face was grave and serious. It was a look I had seen numerous times over the last three years, a look that dared me to question him.

'Go ahead and ask me what's going to happen,' it said. 'Let's just see what happens when you break the rules.'

The air smelled like smoke, and I could see an ashtray with two stubbed-out cigarettes resting on a tiny table that stood by the window. He only smoked when we were playing our 'games', never any other times. Out in the real world, he found smoking to be a disgusting habit, and wouldn't be caught dead doing it, but the real world didn't exist here. The real world was, in fact, so far away from this place that you couldn't even see it with a telescope.

This world was nothing more than a game - a play with two characters: a man and a woman. The actors fell so deeply into their roles that it was almost impossible to know when it was time to come back to reality, and the scenes flowed seamlessly, one into another into another.

The audience came down to four walls and whomever happened to hear the things we did (the walls of the room were thin). The single step over the threshold into the room caused the line that lie between reality and our games to blur - almost disappear entirely.

And that was one of the things I liked about this place; it cut up the real world into lean little pieces, like ham through a meat grinder, spun it around and blended it, and turned it into something else, something so different that it was nearly unrecognizable. Feelings went unfelt, concerns unvoiced. Even the air changed. It was cool and clean outside, but inside, it was dark and dirty and hot, charged with some emotion that neither of us could be bothered to name. The acrid smell of smoke filled our nostrils and stung our eyes, and the silence swirled in between us, quickening my heartbeat as I waited to hear what he would say first.

"Take the coat off."

I blinked, thrown for just a moment, by the sound of his voice, then hurried to do what I had been told. In the real world, he was the epitome of patience, but he possessed none of it here, in the world of our games, and he had no reason to. The only solid rule we had was that I do whatever he told me to, and I knew it. The other rules were fluid; subject to change whenever he felt the desire to change them. This rule, though, was utterly uncompromising. If I failed to follow it, punishment would be doled out - a punishment far worse than the things that the game itself entailed.

I allowed the coat to hang off my pale shoulders for a moment, subconsciously teasing him, then let it drop to the floor, exposing my underclothes, which consisted of nothing more than a white tee-shirt that came down just past my knees. I didn't bother with underwear when we played; I learned quickly that it was nothing more than a hindrance, and I no longer saw the point in wearing them.

He did well at feigning disinterest - didn't even look anyplace but at my eyes when the coat dropped.

"Sit," was all he said, his tone sharp and commanding.

I walked backwards, not taking my eyes off his face. I became so entranced by his lack of expression that I nearly fell backwards when my thighs hit the chair, but I managed to catch myself and sat down, (mostly) gracefully.

He gave a single nod when I took my seat, and I knew what it meant. I moved my hands behind my back without a word, grasping my wrists tightly in each hand. He walked over to the nightstand beside the bed, opened the drawer, and took something from it. In the dark, I couldn't actually see what it was he held, but I knew. It was the same thing it had always been. Our world was nothing without consistency and order. When our games first began, years ago, he had told me that a pet could not be trained in the midst of inconsistency. It took me longer than it should have, but eventually I realized what this meant; that, to him, while we were in this room, I was nothing more than a dog to be trained - a bitch in heat.

And although I would never say it aloud, that was the way I liked it.

I felt each and every movement his hands made as he knelt behind me and tied my hands behind my back, keeping me from moving around on the chair unless he wanted me to. I could almost feel his pants getting tighter, even though I couldn't see him. He got off on this, just like I did.

When he stood back in front of me, he was so close that I swore I could feel his warm breath on my lips. It looked, for just a second, like he was going to kiss me, but he pulled back right as I attempted to move forward. I should have known that was going to happen - he had been teasing me like that almost since the day our games began. He enjoyed it, I knew, and he always had.

Sometimes I wondered if that was why we continued these games, even after he got himself a girlfriend; because I gave him something that she wouldn't. I had never actually met her face-to-face, but I knew from the moment he had showed me her picture that this would never be something she was into. And, honestly, I was almost positive he loved her too much to ever subject her to the kind of pain and humiliation that he gave to me. He spoke about her as though she were the beginning and the ending of his universe, as if he would disintegrate into nothingness if she ever ditched him. She was everything, and I was nothing. A tiny, insignificant star that had been sucked into the all-encompassing fiery heat of the sun and burned up in mere milliseconds.

He grasped a handful of my hair and tugged on it sharply, then spoke in his eerily calm tone of voice,

"Did I say you could move?"

My head fell violently to the side when he let go of my hair, and I watched, the image crooked and unbalanced, as he walked over to the mini-fridge that was common in every room of this motel, dirty on the inside and filled only with the things that current occupants brought, and things that previous occupants left behind. He opened the door and took out a bottle of beer, cracking the top off easily and dropping it onto the floor without a second thought. He took a long swig, and I stared at his throat, fascinated by the sight of his Adam's apple bobbing up and down when he swallowed. He didn't often drink, just as he abhorred smoking, but the rules of the real world and our world were completely different, and we both accepted it as basic fact, like the ground being under our feet, or the sky being blue. It was something that had no room to be questioned.

He gripped my hair again and pulled on it until my head tilted backwards. Then he held the beer bottle to my lips and gave me a taste of the alcohol. Not anywhere near enough to get me drunk, but just enough so that I craved more. I wouldn't get it, though - I knew that already. He didn't even have to say it.

He pulled the bottle away from my mouth, watched as my head bounced upwards comically, as though my neck were spring-loaded, like a bobble-head, and finished off the beer in two gulps, then put the bottle on the floor beside my feet.

"Let's get started, shall we?"

Adrenaline filled me at these words, and I had to fight to keep from answering him. I knew - quite well - that he wasn't looking for a reply.

He reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a crumpled pack of cigarettes and a beat-up red lighter. The pack had been well broken-in; there were only three more in it.

Beer and cigarettes in a shitty motel room. My, what class we had.

He took one of the cigarettes from the pack, (putting the remaining two back in his pocket), popped it in his mouth, and lit it with his ever-steady hands. Smoke filled my nose as he breathed out and blew it directly in my face.

I didn't blink, even as the smoke stung my eyes and caused them to start watering, blurring my vision and making the sight of him grow wavy and swim before me. Blinking during this part of the game was against the rules - I knew that well; it had been burned into my brain a long while ago. And breaking the rules would result in punishment. It was simple.

He took another drag from the cigarette, looked up at the ceiling and blew the smoke into the air, then held it in between his lips, turned away from me, and walked over to the heater. He put the cigarette out in the ashtray on the table on the way, leaving it sticking in an upwards position, smoke curling off the smoldering end and causing the paper to look like the skin of an apple after it had been left out for two weeks straight - blackened, wrinkled, and sunken in.

Standing before the heater, he touched a finger to one of the objects he had placed on the towel: a simple metal rod with a black rubber grip on the end. I had no idea what it was actually used for, but it didn't really matter. It would soon be used for something else.

He seemed to find the heat of the rod satisfactory and picked it up by the end, avoiding the inevitable burn he would have felt, had he have grabbed it around the middle or the tip, where the heat had a tendency to collect. Over the years, I had learned that this particular rod could grow nearly as hot as a branding iron, if left in front of a consistent heat source long enough.

He liked to call these metal objects "toys", and this particular "toy" was a favorite of mine. He didn't bring it out very often, knowing how much I enjoyed it, but even if it had been a while since he had last used it, it never failed to excite me. As he walked back towards me, rod in hand, I bit my lip in an effort to hold back a moan, feeling myself growing wet at the sight. I squirmed around on the chair, trying to relieve some of the pressure between my legs, forgetting, for a moment, that moving was against the rules. A sharp slap to my face brought the memory of the rule back in a hurry.

His eyes expressed anger, and the exhilarating feeling of fear began to build up in my chest.

"Don't," he slapped me again. "Fucking," slap. "Move." He put quite a bit of force behind the final slap, and for just a moment, I feared that the chair I was tied to would fall backwards - and take me with it - but it didn't.

After he appeared to feel that I had been adequately punished for my transgression, the anger on his face disappeared, and he fell easily back into his previous role in our game, as calm and in control as ever.

Even though the rod had been exposed to the temperature in the room for about a minute by this point, the tip was still bright red in color, telling of the intense heat that it had been subjected to.

He pulled up the short sleeve of my shirt (which came down to just past my shoulder blade) and looked at the scar he had first placed there years ago - a burn scar that read his signature, as though my skin - my body - were a document he had been asked to sign.

'I'll bet this is something your girlfriend will never find out about,' I thought to myself, fighting the smirk that wanted to show up on my face. I knew a look like that would not be tolerated.

I didn't need to worry about fighting it for too long, though. The second the tip of the rod touched my shoulder, I felt as though I were about to jump out of my skin. I dug my teeth into my lower lip as he traced over the burn scar with the rod, and began to shake my foot up and down, looking for a place - any place - to focus the pain.

That's not to say the pain was all I felt. My vagina clenched and released, sending sparks of sexual pleasure shooting through my body at a speed I could hardly deal with. Heat had turned me on for almost as long as I had known about sex, and burning me was nothing if not a quick way to get my motor running.

When he finally took the rod from my skin, I moaned without thinking, unable to hold it in, then tensed up, bracing myself for another slap.

But it didn't come. Instead, he dropped the rapidly-cooling metal rod onto the carpet, leaned forward and said, close to my lips, (though never actually touching them),

"I know you like that. Why else would I do it? Just to hear the noise you make."

He crouched down a bit, his crotch coming in contact with my center, allowing me to feel just how hard he was behind the zipper of his jeans. He ground himself against me, mouth closed tightly, holding back the pants I knew he desperately wanted to release. But to let them out would be inconsistent, and that simply was not allowed, no matter what the circumstances happened to be. I was nothing more than a pet, after all. Sexual actions, or no sexual actions.

Just as he seemed to be growing desperate enough to begin dry-humping my body in earnest, he came back to himself and pulled away. Something in his eyes made him appear nervous (which made me nervous) as he walked behind me and untied the rope that had been binding my wrists during the entirety of our game.

"Stand up," he said dully, his tone revealing nothing of why his mood had shifted so suddenly. "We're done."

Numbly, I went about doing as I had been told. My arms ached after having been held in a single position for so long, and my shoulder was stinging as though a dozen angry hornets had come after it at the same time, but I could hardly feel it. He had never dragged out our games before, and it shouldn't have surprised me that he didn't drag it now, but for some reason, it did.

He handed me my coat without looking at me, then went about the business of cleaning up the room. I had offered to help him a few times before, but after the third time he turned me down, I learned to stop asking.

I pulled on my coat, buttoned it up, and walked over to the motel room door, hand on the knob.

"See you again soon," I whispered, thinking he wouldn't hear me, but I was wrong.

"No, you won't." His voice sounded almost sad.

"Yes, I will."

He had said before that our games had to stop; that his girlfriend could never find out about them. He loved her too much. I agreed with no hesitation. I was no cheater. I hated cheating the way he hated smoking, out in the real world.

But no matter how long it had been since we last saw each other - two days, three weeks, seven months - he always sought me out eventually. And I would come, because I needed the release our games provided, just like he did, and no one gave me what I needed better than him.

I felt his eyes on my back as I left, but I didn't turn around. I didn't need to; I would see him again soon enough. And until I did, I had the constant stinging feeling of his signature burned into my arm to remember him by. Our contract, one that was just as fucked up as everything else we did together.

A small smile turned my lips upwards, just slightly. There was nothing to worry about. Our love/hate relationship would continue on. Forever.