It is a ritual. I arrive expectantly late, no less than ten minutes, no more than twenty, sufficient time for him to scold. I stand outside the panelled doors of his private rooms in the Saint Paul hotel, wearing my camel coat with the fake fur collar and red stilettos; his favourites. It is late evening. Above me a glimmering chandelier cascades its light down the gold and ruby entrance which always leads me to him.
I can hear his footstep as he waddles up the hall, then nothing - one, two, three, the silence just before he opens the door. His face is angry, lined, flushed with alcohol, his eyes narrow, piercing. He is dressed in a black silk dressing gown and matching slippers, revealing curled grey hair on his rose-stained chest. The gown is loosely tied with an extravagantly large bow beneath his roly-poly waist.
‘You’re late slut.’ He holds the door ajar, waiting. I pass him by, looking forward. The whiff of Amouage Die Pour Homme soils the air, nothing but the best of fragrances for a man like him.
I hear the click, click, click of my stilettos on the shiny tiled floor. Closing the door, he will watch me until he is good and ready. Even with my back to him, I know his eyes are on me, taking, without touching.
There is champagne cooling on a side table. He pops the cork, hands me a glass. I swallow fast, bubbles; sharp, cold, tiny droplets tease my face. I drink some more, feeling instantly better; braver.
I have a role to play. I look chastised. He likes me this way. He calls me a 'slut' again. I’m still standing in my coat as he talks to me about Degas the artist and all his many masks. I balance on my red high heels, his pretty audience. He pretends a lack of interest, engrossed in his own clever conversation. I reach out, untie the silk gown. He looks shocked at first, he always does, then smiles, liking to play the game.
‘You tart, you fucking, dirty, shameless tart,’ as he removes my coat with the swiftness of a master. His right hand pulls my hair, yanking it, using a ferocity which I have come to know is part of how he sees me. ‘I forgive you,’ he whispers.
Naked, standing before the mirror, he stands behind me. My eyes stretch, the player with the well-rehearsed modesty as I wait, his mouth opening ready to consume me.
Afterwards he will cry like a baby. Ask me if I despise him. He will be gentle then, talk, and I will listen.