The dog let out his daily howl with way more vigor than twelve pounds should be capable of. The moon wasn’t out, but he could hear my wife Sara coming home before her Mustang turned the corner. I said goodbye to my girlfriend online and rushed down the stairs to meet the car in the driveway.
My wife is part of a Neo-Romantic group that is resurrecting and updating the rituals that Christianity paved over. The Neo-Romantics have reclaimed the Fourteenth of February as Wolves’ Night, modeled after the Roman Lupercalia. I hadn’t attended for years, but Sara had warned me that a lot with my name on it would be drawn tonight, so I needed to be in attendance.
Her new fiancee Tess got out of the passenger seat to greet me with a hug. I’d been on vacation with them in Bavaria when they got engaged. Unknown to Sara, I’d given Tess permission to use the design of the custom ring from my own proposal a decade before. Tess had commissioned a matching one with a central diamond and two rubies instead of a central ruby and two diamonds. Both used the same hypoallergenic alloy for the base ring. Tess held the door while I folded myself into what passed for a back seat in the muscle car.
“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” Tess asked me.
“Okay with what?” I asked.
“God damn it, Sara!” Tess did a lot more damning than you might expect from a Neo-Romantic atheist.
“I told him!” Sara made full use of the horsepower to pin us to our seats.
“Does this have anything to do with your marriage?” I guessed.
“Yes!” Sara jumped in. “We’re going to be First Couple!”
I did mention this was a fertility ritual, right? After the blessing of the wolves, the First Couple would literally go at it in front of the entire assemblage. Then most of the other guests would be paired off by lot for their own trysting. It wasn’t exactly an orgy, but Romans knew how to party.
“That is so awesome!” I yelped.
“Wait. If you two are First Couple, how is my lot in play?”
“Fuck!” Tess declared.
The original Lupercalia involved drawing lots from matching urns to randomly pair people off for sex. In the modern practice of Wolves’ Night, the matching was performed by complex spreadsheets accounting for everything from STIs to sexual orientation to declarations that someone refuses to be paired off with Jane for whatever reason. It was taboo to mention it, but the matches were made well in advance. Individual instructions about things like dental dams and excluded activities were printed onto the lots. In spite of occasional accusations that the organizers were fiddling with the matches, the system worked pretty well as long as the participants signed up in twos, one black lot and one white. The main reason for my long time away was that Tess and Sara dropped lots together.
“You’re going to be paired with Dana.” Sara said. Everyone got quiet as we whipped around a turn way too fast. Sara pulled into the driveway at our destination and handed the keys to a valet in grey with her hair tied back.
“Who is Dana?” I asked Tess during the ordeal of folding seats and unfolding legs.
“What?! Didn’t she go to school with my son?”
“They want a kid.”
I am fairly certain anyone watching would have seen Hitchcock’s Vertigo effect play out across my face.
“How could you, Sara?” Tess said, “Now he’s going to be freaking out. This was supposed to be our night.”
“It’ll be fine. I’ve reviewed the contracts and they are offering all the access he could want with no financial commitment. Elle even set up an insurance policy to pay paternity claims if anything happens to them.”
“Stop being such a lawyer, Sara.”
Sara, who works for the District Attorney’s office, narrowed her eyes dangerously, this was about to get ugly.
“I’ll do it.” I preempted.
Tess stared at me slack-jawed. I cupped my hands behind Tess’s head and pulled her close enough to kiss. We’re way too much alike in a completely incompatible way, so we’ve never been intimate and would have nothing to do with each other if not for Sara.
“This is your night, Tess. Do you have the ring?”
She made a tiny nod.
“Then go show everyone why you two are meant to be together.”
Because the event tonight involved sex, it drew a lot of attention from certain practictioners with no interest in history, spiritual overtones, artistic expression, nor community. The surplus of unattached cis-gendered straight men had been so bad that none of them were allowed to attend any more. Many women split off into their own gathering to be free of the issue altogether. This mansion belonged to the hostess of the gathering that cis-gendered males had been banned from.
I felt completely out of place. Logically, it would have been tough to argue that providing the biological prerequisites for a much wanted child was out of place at a ritual of fertility, but that did absolutely nothing to make me feel better about walking among a river of women gracefully floating through the manicured gaziosmanpaşa escort gardens.
The robe I was wearing belonged to a woman a touch taller than myself. The indigo silk was impossibly smooth on my bare shoulders. I couldn’t bear the idea of damaging something so fine, so I took tiny steps to keep it from dragging until I got tired enough of falling behind Sara and Tess that I had to bunch a few inches of fabric into my waistband to keep up. I was lacking in both the floating and gracefulness departments, but at least I could return the garment in the same condition that I received it.
The robes were shed onto pegs in the cloakroom, revealing togas beneath. These were not the slapdash products of high school parties, but elegantly tailored garments. Many were strategically translucent, and none of them were quite long enough to reach the thighs, but they were all jet black or pure white.
My own clothing was more improvised. A belt held a pair of white fabric panels before and behind me. A second cord just above my knees kept them from flapping open, but also restricted my movement. I preferred to think of it as a makeshift kilt, but honestly it looked more like an oversized loincloth. I was so acutely aware of being the only cis-gendered male at the estate that I reflexively raised my hand to cover my telltale facial hair.
The grand ballroom was the realized dream of a woman with the ambition of Mad King Ludwig and the finances of a silicon valley success story. Its arched ceilings seemed high enough to fit a regular house beneath them. The east and west walls of the room had been lined with beds and trysting couches.
A marble altar dominated the stage at the northern end of the room, bathed in light from above. Below the altar was a straddle horse of the sort often found in sex clubs, except this one was in pristine condition. It had a raised center to rest the torso upon and lower sides for the hands and knees, so the posterior of whoever mounted it would be prominently displayed and easily accessible.
An usher in grey led our group past a lone four-poster bed in the center of the room to a simple sleigh bed in the dead center of the eastern wall. She gestured for me to sit up on the bed and then put a simple leather cuff on my leg, effectively leashing me to the footboard. I could have easily removed the anklet myself if I needed to, but the symbolic reminder that I was here more as an offering than a full participant couldn’t have been clearer.
The usher led Tess through a door in the wall behind me, and Sara kept popping up on tiptoes to scan the crowd. I tried to picture Dana in my mind, but couldn’t. My pulse pounded in my ears and my ankle started to itch beneath the strap. I reached out to grab Sara’s hand for support, but instead she gave me a burgundy folder that I hadn’t even noticed she was carrying.
“Here are Elle’s copies of the donor agreement. She really wants you as the father.”
“But why?” I asked, still mystified.
“Ask her. I already signed them for you, so you can just hand them over if you are okay to do this.”
I wanted to have a talk about appropriate and inappropriate usage of durable power of attorney, but being surrounded by all these women practically glowing with power in the center of their sanctuary didn’t make me eager to demand anything.
Elle arrived in white gossamer. She ran up and flung her arms around Sara who returned the hug and added kisses.
“Oh, Sara! Thank you so much. This means the world to us.”
“You will be great mothers. And your, uh, donor won’t be able to resist giving the spud about a gazillion hours of free tutoring.”
“He’ll have to arm wrestle me for some of that, but I wouldn’t dream of keeping our daughter out of his classes. Everyone in this group under twenty-five took at least a couple science labs with him.”
“I liked robotics the best,” Dana interjected.
That startled me. Being with a former student was just too much. I rifled through my memories for one of the pigtailed girls programming motorized monsters made of interlocking blocks to race each other up buildings for one who could have grown into the young woman before me, but none of them seemed to match.
“When did you take robotics?” I risked.
“I never got to take it myself, but I was so jealous when I drove my kid brother to your class on Saturday mornings a few years ago, I made him teach me everything you showed him. I made my own versions of all the projects and tested my robots against his.”
“You’d have been welcome to come in. Many adults do.”
“Oh, I couldn’t have. I had a terrible crush on you.”
Dana blushed and cast her eyes down. My throat went dry. Only Tess’s return broke the awkward impasse.
“Sara. No more chatting, we have to get ready.” Tess said.
“Already?” Dana said, startled. “I better line up for the blessing.”
I watched her leave and tried to come to grips with what I was being asked to do. If the burgundy folder haymana escort didn’t have a hard cover, I’d have probably crumpled the papers inside out of sheer nerves. I opened the folder to read what was inside, but the agreement was about fifteen pages long, and there was no point in second-guessing Sara on legal documents anyway. I zoned out until Elle snapped me back to the present by speaking from beside the bed.
“You know they’re wrong about you?”
“I don’t — What do you mean?”
“They say your eyes are so blue because they reflect your shirts, but there isn’t anything else blue in this whole room.”
All I could manage was “Oh.”
“I think you have a folder for me?”
“I have to ask, first. Why me?”
She smiled and brushed a lock of hair off my brow. “It didn’t hurt that Dana really did have a crush on you, but I picked.”
I could tell she wasn’t finished, so I waited.
“Partly because you are smart as hell and good with kids.”
“Partly because you are waiting for my answer rather than trying to tell me what it should be.”
“Oh. Did Sara give you my full medical history?”
“That’s the most important part. Genetics or no genetics, someone who cares as much or more about whether we are going to get what we want as about the sex or everything your wife put into that folder isn’t going to hurt Dana in the here and now. That’s why.”
My eyes felt moist, so I closed them for a moment. When I reopened them, I handed her the folder. She put her hand on my shoulder and pulled me in for a tender hug.
All the lights dimmed, then spotlights drew our attention to the altar. Whoever did the makeup knew their stagecraft well. They had given the Flamen Priests the faces of wolves. The Senior Flamen wore an immaculate bronze breastplate. His arms weren’t a bit smaller than when he had won the regional Women’s Bodybuilding title a few years and another life ago. With his armored skirt and sandals, Karl seemed he could repel an incursion of Hamilcar and the Punes single-handedly.
Steve stood beside Karl as the second Flamen. His makeup, physique and uniform matched except there was no second breastplate. The two Flamen took positions on either side of the altar. Karl held a red leather flogger with dozens of delicate tails. Steve had a black leather strap, three inches wide. The altar veil was embroidered with a matching flogger in a red circle to the left where Karl stood, and a strap in a black circle to the right beside Steve.
Our hostess was the Pontiff. Her full length gown had an intricate geometric pattern worthy of M. C. Escher that repeatedly transitioned from black with grey to grey with white up, down and around the fabric. She stood behind the altar to recite the Blessing of Lupercalia, then nodded to the line of aspirants all in white who were waiting for a more material manifestation of the divine.
First in line was a young Asian woman who had definitely been in my advanced math topics class the previous summer. She’d have just turned eighteen, the minimum age at which the group allowed attendance to events with sexual activity. She climbed onto the straddle couch and rested her upper body lengthwise. This caused her toga to ride up higher and dispel any illusion that she was wearing something beneath.
She placed her hand up against the red circle with two fingers extended, giggled, and pulled her arm back to hug the couch. Karl walked behind her and lightly smacked her rump with the flogger. She tapped the red circle again, this time with three fingers. Karl drew back and gave her another lash, this one hard enough to leave a red mark. The young woman tapped the circle a final time with just two fingers and got a light stroke like the first. An usher helped her down from the couch and guided her to an empty bed.
Second in line was a short woman with greying hair long enough to extend past the hem of her toga when standing. She hopped up with practiced ease, her buttocks displaying bruises in enough stages to suggest that she was no stranger to impact play. She jammed her hand with all five fingers out onto the black circle and held it there. Steve brought the strap across her with his full strength. The noise she made was more pleased than pained. Two strokes later she hopped off the horse and actually skipped to her bed with an usher struggling to keep up.
Each of the women in line took their turn, touching red for the sting of Karl’s flogger, and black for Steve’s strap. One finger for the lightest stroke, two a bit harder, three left a red mark, and four a light bruise. Dana was near the back of the line, and let two women pass her until no one but her remained. I wondered if Dana had gotten cold feet, but she strode confidently to lay before the altar. She picked the red flail with all five digits splayed wide.
I leaned close to Elle to whisper. “I didn’t realize Dana was so keen on flogging.”
“She’s not.” Elle took my hand in hers. I’m not sure which of us that ankara escort was intended to comfort.
Karl smiled and rubbed Dana’s buttocks with his bare hand. He then took a full swing and brought his flail down on her. She yelped and withdrew her arm. I squeezed Elle’s hand a bit too hard.
Elle squeezed back. “She’s been obsessing over this ritual for weeks, like she can’t have a baby without it.”
Dana replaced her hand, all fingers splayed. Karl swung again, but there was no yelp this time. Dana patted the disc a third time and received the final stroke.
“Oh, please let it be over.” Elle hadn’t relaxed.
Dana slid her hand over to the black circle and kept all five fingers out. Steve looked a little confused and turned to Karl, then both looked back to the Pontiff. She inclined her head in a slow nod. “I thought the wolf wasn’t supposed to give more than three lashes,” I said meekly.
Steve stepped forward and took a moderate swing, not as hard as for some who asked for the strap to start with. It landed at the base of her already bright red buttocks.
“She’s getting three from each.” Elle explained.
Dana slammed her hand back down and glared at Steve, daring him to give her anything but his hardest. This earned her Steve’s full attention. He stepped back to get his whole body into the stroke, physically lifting Dana with the impact.
“No, please.” Elle’s voice squeaked, so softly only I could hear.
Dana returned her hand to the black disc, but this time with just two fingers out. Steve sighed in relief and delivered a light blow, hardly more than a tap. Elle rushed up in person to collect Dana, and whisked her away to a lounge chair near the center stage. Elle cradled Dana in her arms, both of them shivering.
An array of women in modern chefs’ coats brought out the sacrifice, spiced goat with roast boar. There were smaller trays for the vegans. Once the staff had retreated and the conversational murmur transformed into the sounds of eating, the lighting dimmed, and a pair of spotlights bathed the central stage from opposing sides.
The mahogany posts of the bed for the First Couple were polished well enough to reflect light in a glittering pattern. Silver trays of food rested on small tables placed where nightstands might be in a regular bedroom. Tess and Sara stepped into the light, facing each other across the bed.
Sara climbed up and reclined along the edge of the bed, facing Tess across its width. Tess took a strip of goat meat and took a bite. She circled slowly around the bed slowly, dragging her free hand along the sheets, the footboard, and finally Sara’s legs and hips.
She snaked her arm around Sara to press the remainder of her morsel against her lips. While Sara nibbled at the food, Tess’s other hand was working its way up and down her lower back, down her legs, and firmly between them. Sara closed her eyes and began to rock her hips absently. A single tear slid down my cheek; knowing they were together wasn’t quite the same as seeing it.
When Sara swallowed the last of the meat, Tess lifted her to a kneeling position, pointing her toward the center of the bed. Sara would have been looking directly at me if her eyes weren’t closed. Never letting go of the handhold beneath, Tess slipped her free hand up the back of Sara’s dress to tilt her forward until Sara reached out to support herself on hands and knees.
Tess climbed onto the bed, giving me my first glimpse of purple between her legs. Her prosthetic had a simple flange at the base, but no obvious straps. Whatever was anchoring it was deep inside of Tess. The lovers went through a complex dance where Sara rose and lowered herself while Tess made the shortest strokes, skillfully working the awkward device into place.
Once the purple had disappeared within them, Tess’s hands roamed across Sara’s back and shoulders. Tess leaned forward and rested more of her weight atop Sara, reaching underneath Sara’s toga to massage her breasts.
A look of urgency crept across Tess’s face. Whatever anchored the toy in place was having as much effect on her as her partner. Tess grabbed Sara’s wrists and pulled them backwards, forcing Sara to lower her shoulders to the mattress, head to one side. Tess placed a hand on each shoulder blade to rear up and thrust harder, but always keeping their hips pinned tightly with short movements, never separating more than an inch or two.
A blissful smile spread across Sara’s face as Tess pressed her repeatedly into the mattress, serenading her with the tortured complaints of an overworked coil in the box spring. A matching high-pitched squeak was coming from Tess, perfectly in time and tune with the mattress.
Not more than a minute later, Tess arched her back and held her breath, scrunching her nose and biting her own lip as her face turned bright red, Somehow keeping her rhythm throughout. As she took in a deep breath, she slightly leaned back and grabbed the front ridge of Sara’s hips. Sara’s breathing quickened and opened her mouth wide, gulping for air. The calm on Sara’s face was replaced by a look of agony that could only mean the exact opposite was near. Nails dug into skin and mattress alike. Her eyes opened unseeing, all attention inward. When her rigid body softened, I let my own breath out. Tess collapsed beside with a whimper.