I'd been lying there a while, in that weird state between sleep and wakefulness. It was morning, the sun was out. Diane wasn't around.
It really was the first time Diane had left me alone in her apartment. Things were going well between us and I'd begun to spend more and more time at her place, and the thought crossed my mind that with her casual acceptance of my presence even while she was away, we'd reached yet another milestone. Feeling lazy and having nothing pressing, I simply lay there for some minutes.
What finally got me up was just a touch of curiosity. On the shelf in Diane's closet, which was sitting open, was a row of videotapes, neatly boxed and labelled. I'd certainly noticed the collection before, but though I'd chosen not to be nosy about them, I couldn't help but be curious, given the time we'd spent in that room. So thinking a little about how long Diane was likely to be out, I got up and took a closer look.
On each one was a name and a date. A first name, or more specifically a male first name. I looked at the row, about twenty five tapes or so. I looked at the dates. The first tape was dated about five years before. I can't say when the thought first crossed my mind, I guess it's just inevitable given the tapes were away from public view, were labeled in that manner. You just had to figure they could be something of an especially private nature.
And yet knowing Diane, that didn't seem likely. She was certainly a sexual person, but the obvious devotion she'd shown me strongly suggested a very traditional attitude toward relationships. And despite my curious nature, the thought occurred to me that if she did have an interesting past that she kept quiet about, that it was her own business until she chose to share it. Despite what they say about me, I do have scruples.
But apparently not enough to suppress my curiosity that morning. I'd made it to the kitchen and was looking to make some coffee when I succumbed, returned, and considering again how long she was likely to be out, took the first tape. "James, 3/23/1998" it said. Intrigued, I put it in the VCR.
It began with a touch of shaking but soon it became clear that it was Diane's bedroom. "Right over here," said a voice. Diane's voice.
A guy stepped into view. He was tall, and fairly muscular. There was just a touch of laughter. Diane's. "OK," said Diane. "Get undressed."
The guy looked a touch confused, but then smiled and said "Come here." He spoke to someone out of the field of view, near the camera. He grinned, and looked like he might come forward.
"In due time," said Diane. "Go ahead, get undressed. For me."
Grinning at her, he started undoing his shirt. I turned it off.
I sat there, staring at the blank screen for a while, but then coming to my senses, rewound the tape and replaced it. It was pretty clear I'd run into exactly what I'd suspected and I'd quickly found I didn't want to see Diane with other guys. I found myself thinking as I scrounged a breakfast. It was a fair number of tapes over the five or so years. Each tape had a different name. Not so many as to document her with a different guys each night or anything like that, but several guys per year. If she spent two or three months with each guy, it would about add up. I thought about whether the guy was aware of the tape: it seemed like he would be. I admit the thought crossed my mind again to watch more of it, but I realized on balance I certainly didn't want to.
When Diane returned, I did my best to act normal. She'd been out running with her friend Karen, at a park near Karen's place, something they often did on Saturday mornings. I found myself surreptitiously studying her that morning as she joined me for breakfast and reading the paper. She was no different than she had been, but having confirmed the content of those tapes, I found myself thinking, wondering. Did the tapes show her to be someone I didn't know? Which was the real Diane? Or was I making far too much of this?
Fortunately as time passed, my obsession subsided and I was able to function normally. And since Diane acted no different, I was able to lay my doubts to rest: she was the same woman who'd gained my interest three months earlier and who spent almost every evening with me.
It was when we had sex that night that the thoughts returned. She was her usual passionate self, seeming "into" me in a big way and as always, it was a heady experience to share intimate times with her. But afterward as I lay there, I began to wonder if she was as enthusiastic with other lovers. Obviously this is a thought that could occur to me in any case, but somehow, having seen the tapes and knowing they were there made me dwell on the question. Was it because I knew she'd had so many lovers?
I hadn't planned it, or at least not consciously. Inevitably there was another occasion when I hung out at her apartment when she was out, and I swear I had not been "waiting for the opportunity" or any such thing, but once I was there alone, the thought crossed my mind and I couldn't escape it. I got the tape again.
And watched again. And it struck me as strange the way she asked him to undress. I didn't turn it off, and watched him proceed. I thought about fast forwarding. "Aren't you going to join me?" the guy said.
"I like to watch you undress," she said. It sounded so lewd, and I couldn't recall a time when she'd taken any similar attitude with me. Something about that bothered me, as if she were in some manner holding back with me. I remember feeling a little guilty about setting myself up for such thoughts. But I watched, even though all it showed was a guy undressing. "Good," came Diane's voice, as he got down to his underwear. He looked at her questioningly, apparently feeling a little funny about going further, or wondering whether she were ready to join him. It was a totally natural reaction. "Go on," she said.
He grinned, and did so. I'd half expected him to make a silly show of it, but he just looked a little nervous. "Well?" he said, now naked, obviously expecting her to join him.
"Lie down on the bed," she said.
He looked at her curiously, but seemed to decide that one way or another, things were proceeding, and did as she asked. "On your stomach," she said.
She moved closer, partially blocking the view. "Come on now, on your stomach, OK?"
I saw him roll over. "Nice," she said. "Now, put your hands behind your neck."
He laughed just a touch, and I think he rolled to look at her. "Go ahead," she said. "Humor me, OK?"
"What is this?" he asked, as he did it.
"Good," she said. It was funny the way her voice sounded as she said it, she sounded completely sincere, as if she were very pleased. "Now," she said, moving closer to him, putting her in clear view, "what I have here is a cane, which will sting quite a bit."
"What?" said the guy, suddenly rolling over to look at her, as startled as I was.
"Ah, now lie back down, on your stomach."
"Don't worry about it. Please. Just lie back down."
"Listen, this is crazy..."
"Shh," she said, in a sort-of soothing manner. "Don't worry," she added, still retaining the soothing tone. "Lie back down. Everything is fine."
"Uh, I'm not into this..." he said, as he did what she asked.
"Don't worry," she said. "It's nothing to get worried about, OK?"
"I--think I'd better go," he said.
"Not just yet," she said, sitting next to him. I stared at the picture, incredulous. "Now calm down and say nothing," she said. She stroked his back as she said it. "Don't worry, but don't say anything for a little while."
For a moment they remained like that. She stroked his back. Diane! "I have to go," he said suddenly.
"Sh," she said, now her voice even more calm. "In a bit. Everything will be fine." Then she stood, trailing her hand off him. "Don't say a word. I'll just give you five and it'll be over soon."
"Diane," he said.
"Sh," she said. "Don't move."
And he didn't! He lay there, obediently, on his stomach, his hands behind his neck. She backed away a little and stretched out her arm with the cane. "It'll sting a bit but remember, five and they're all over," she said. "You're doing great."
For a moment she simply stood there, holding the cane. Then, suddenly, she took a backswing, and whipped it down on his ass. I almost felt the wind knocked out of me, seeing her do that. The guy gasped. "Sh," she said. And she gave him another.
And more. And then she turned away, after the fifth. "Good," she said, "excellent. You can get dressed again."
"What?" he said. He sounded confused. I wondered whether he thought she'd undress and join him in the bed. Just a little earlier he'd seemed ready to leave.
"You did very nicely and you can get dressed again now, but no talk." She left the view of the camera, apparently back to where she'd been before.
"No talk," she repeated.
He openly rubbed his ass as he stood, careful not to sit on it. Then, finding his clothes he began to dress. I found I didn't want to watch a guy dressing and almost turned it off, but in the end, I simply looked away. "You can go now," came her voice, a bit later. I looked back to find him practically dressed. He left, and she did too and the tape simply showed the bed. The bed she and I had been sleeping in. I stared at it. Then her footsteps came, and the camera went off.
I simply sat there, static on the TV. I roused myself in a bit, remembering that Diane would be back and after rewinding the tape, carefully replaced it. And I looked at the other tapes. "Charles," "David," "Ray," "Joe," "Randy." Then I noticed one had a bunch of dates on it. And the name on it was "Jane".
I was pretending to read my book when Diane returned, from some shopping thing. I did my best to act natural, but whenever I was left to myself, I found myself lost in thought. I couldn't get it out of my mind though it was clear very soon that my mind was going in circles. Remembering the taped scene, trying to reconcile the Diane on the tape with the Diane I knew. Thinking about what she did, the cajoling, sort of luring the guy into submitting to being whipped like that. And all those tapes.
Yes, it wasn't too long before she was off with Karen to some other thing, and I went for the tape marked "Jane". Yes, it was a very similar scene with a woman. She pleaded with Diane, to join her, to act normally. Diane talked her through it, her voice soothing, apparently revealing her intentions only when Jane was already nude and on the bed. Talking Jane out of her panic when she realized what Diane was saying. Five strokes. Diane described them as "stinging a bit," but it looked to me like those words hardly described it. Telling Jane to get dressed again. Jane leaving. Then, the beginning of another such scene.
This time Jane obviously knew what was up, and she raised more of a protest when Diane wasn't getting undressed with her. But Diane simply kept talking to her, seemingly with perfect patience. And Jane eventually did as she asked, some of the time seeming to think she'd entice Diane into joining her in bed. A couple of things Jane said seemed to suggest that they'd been in bed before. But all Diane did was talk to her, eventually telling her it would "sting a bit." And in the end, Jane went along with every bit of it.
Another scene began. Jane was adamant that things should be different. It went on and on, minutes. Eventually she undressed as Diane asked her to, seeming to think she was luring Diane into something.
It was getting on in time and I stopped the tape so I could have it back in place. I looked at other tapes as I replaced it. The one after "Jane" was marked "Lisa." Then "Rita," but after that it was guys again, three more tapes. I looked at the date on the last tape. It was a couple of weeks before Diane and I had started going out.
If I'd been obsessive before, now it seemed like all I could think about. I realized I hadn't been absolutely certain that the other tapes would be similar to the first, but the scene with Jane was so much like the first tape that now there seemed no question. And the next time I was alone in the house, I scanned a couple of others and confirmed it all the more.
I thought about Diane and me. She'd remained exactly the same as when we'd first gone out, sex was fantastic, we were getting along great. She seemed to really like me and I was getting to know her friends. Karen even told me that I was perfect for Diane.
Eventually one day we were lying in bed, and the row of tapes were visible, and something must have got to me. Either I figured it would be unnatural for me not to ask about them by this time, or my curiosity finally got to me. Or both. "What are those tapes there?" I said, pointing to them.
She laughed. "You know very well what those are," she said.
I lay there, amazed, and feeling rather guilty. "What?" I said.
"I left you plenty of time to check them out," she said. "You know exactly what's on them. Do you admit it?"
I thought quickly. She didn't seem angry or put out in the least. She seemed to think it was all a bit humorous. I began to wonder how I was going to casually mention their content since it was certainly worthy of mention. "I admit they were a bit of a surprise," I said.
She laughed. "I bet they were," she said.
Where do I go from here? "Why did you make them?" I said.
"I just felt like it. Did you enjoy them?" But as soon as she said it, she seemed to decide on her own that I didn't and I felt no obligation to answer. "I'll bet you enjoyed my lesbian phase," she said.
"Your lesbian phase?" She gave me a sly smile as if to tell me she knew I knew all about it. I couldn't believe the way this was going. "So what's with Jane?"
She looked thoughtful for a moment. "We went out for a while," she said. "I thought I was through with that stuff." I didn't quite understand what she was saying, but she waved her hand toward the tapes and it seemed she meant she was through with tapings or canings or something like that. "Then I found she'd take it just like the guys did. She let me do that for a while, but eventually I got bored with that too."
I thought about the whole thing. It was amazing the way Diane talked about it all so openly. "Do you want to cane me?" I heard myself ask, not as a request, just to find out her mind on the subject.
She laughed. "God, no," she said. "I want to sleep with you."
"Didn't you sleep with them?" I said, indicating the tapes.
"No," she said, nearly laughing again. "Well, there was Jane, but not after I began doing that with her."
"Why do you do that?" I said. It had been clear what she'd meant.
She didn't answer right away, but looked thoughtful again. "I'm not sure," she said. "Why do we do anything?"
I was intrigued by the way she looked unsure of her answer, as if she honestly didn't know what to say. "We do things because we want to," I said.
"Or because we have to," she said.
"Who were those guys?" I asked.
"Oh, guys I met..."
I thought more. "Are you sure you don't have the desire to do the same to me?"
She laughed again. "Absolutely not," she said, snuggling close. I looked at her, trying and failing to understand her. "Look," she said, "I didn't date those guys. Not really."
I decided not to question her further. I found myself relieved on a few issues: she wasn't angry or upset that I knew, and she seemed sincere when she said she had no designs on me in that way. I thought about what she'd said about Jane. Later on, I looked at the tape labels again. There was a substantial gap between the last time she'd taped a guy and the first time she'd taped Jane: seven months. Giving our time together some thought, I realized Diane and I hadn't gone out together that long yet.
"Are you still worried about those tapes?" she asked me later.
"Are you sure you don't have the desire to do that to me?" I asked.
"No," she said flatly.
I thought. "I'm not sure how you can have that desire, but not about me."
She reached up to my neck and pulled me down to kiss her, just a short kiss, then smiled. "It's abundantly clear to me what I want you for," she said. Then she gave me a longer kiss.