I tried to look fierce. “I’ll spank you till you can’t sit down.”
“Oh no,” she said. I thought she was mock-begging: ‘please don’t spank me’. She said, again, “oh no.”
So I said, “Look, there’s really no getting out of it. Of course I will.”
“Oh no. If I don’t please you, you should use a stick.”
“Oh.” We’d been playing some kind of game. Sa’afia had just overtaken me. It’d still be a game if I had the right to punish her when I felt like it. It’d still be a game if I had the right to hurt her more than I could with my hand. But it’d be a much more serious game.
I expected that I looked very white, just then. In the sense of being intensely focussed and pale. The opposite of blushing.
“Absolutely I will use a stick.” I kissed her. “Across your arse.” Sa’afia looked a little too untroubled. “And the backs of your thighs.” Still complacent. “That pretty little belly of yours.” Now she drew in a breath, but she was shiney-eyed. I frowned, since though this was good news, there was a lot to be thought and said about it. But I kissed her again and turned away. I’d have to get to work now, if I were to be able to get away at all.
When I reached the bottom of the steps, and turned back to wave, Sa’afia laughed again. Joyfully. “Oh god, look at you!”
I didn’t glance down. I thought about the ear structure of the African elephant again. I wasn’t noticeably erect, I guessed, by the time I got the gate open. I managed the walk to the van almost casually. I started the engine, and glimpsed myself in the rear-vision mirror. I rubbed my face, trying to get some colour back.
My heart was still thudding by the time I reached the Probation Service carpark.