When Frank MacLean hears his wife's car pull into the driveway, he logs off the online dating site and deletes his browsing history. He's gone south more than a few times to meet women in neighboring towns and each time he thought about how much easier every part of the process would have been if he'd been drunk. Trusting himself enough to meet at a bar, he instinctively set about to get the women drunk. Sometimes it worked just fine and other times the alcohol was what derailed the thing. Some women didn't appreciate Frank trying to get them drunk in a hotel bar while he stuck to ginger ale. One of them came right out and said he was quite a bit older and shorter than his profile said. Being married ten years puts Frank at a disadvantage. He cannot post a photo and evidently, not posting a photo tells women that he's ugly, married or both. Frank is attracted to women in their twenties, but they ignore his messages. Women in their thirties soften up a bit once he sends them his photo privately. His wife took the picture in Atlantic City five years earlier. He was in the water, up to his knees, waving back at her. Frank thinks he looks the same. He hasn't aged a day since it was taken. It's unmistakably him, standing there in wet swim trunks; the kind young guys wear. His wife said they looked ridiculous on a man his age, but he liked them. He thinks they make him look younger. When Frank signed up on the website he put down single to give himself better chances. That seemed logical enough. He ticked the relationship box. It wasn't going to work in his favor to say he was looking for a one night stand, plus, he didn't want to have sex with women having one night stands. Adding five inches to his actual height, he put down six feet tall. Now his user name made sense. Tall, Dark and Handsome. To increase his success rate, he has decided to select sluttier women. Shopping for sluts, thinks Frank as he clicks on another photo. This one is sitting provocatively on a restaurant patio. Sunglasses and a bright yellow bikini top, she's raising a lopsided bottle of beer at whomever is taking the photo. Acting like she's hot does not make her hot, thinks Frank, looking at her thick ankles and idiotic tattoos. Exasperated by his own deliberations, Frank spins off the swivel chair to get a can of fizzy lemon drink out of the fridge. If he goes for one of the sluttier girls, he'll probably get laid, but he'll be subjecting himself to the de rigueur antics of another small-town, gum-chewing, bottle blonde who thinks fellatio is a character in one of those boring plays she was supposed to read before she dropped out of high school to work at the Taco Bell. Not to say she wouldn't give decent a blow job though, thinks Frank. Decisions, decisions. Frank ponders the idea of going north, instead of south, to meet more interesting women. North to New York City, an hour and a half away. Re-setting his search parameters, Frank looks at women seeking relationships within five miles of a zip code in lower Manhattan. In all the fiddling with the drop-down menu for location, he forgets to limit his search to women younger than thirty-five. He leans closer to the screen, wondering why he's looking at women with lined faces, brittle hair and overly aggressive body language. Confident and unsmiling – no doubt difficult women who know what they want, thinks Frank, who doesn't have time for anything other than what he wants. Frank stops on a strawberry blonde in a crisp white blouse buttoned to the top. Her white bra, an outline not meant to be noticeable, is a vintage piece of iconic lingerie. The Platex cross-your-heart circa 1965 – just like his mother used to wear – lifting and separating her ample breasts into pointy white mountain peaks. Clicking to read her profile, Frank learns that she's looking for an aggressive man who knows what he wants. "Interesting," he says out loud, leaning back in his chair. "I think I just figured out what I want." *** Saturday morning, Veronica Dorval is sitting in her kitchen re-writing her online dating profile. Sam was a lifeless dud, but he looked good on paper. Fifty, non-smoker, no pets, non-drinker, no roommates. In person, over coffee, Sam spluttered on about not understanding anything about women. Veronica couldn't wait to get rid of him. Reviewing her options for what she's looking for, Veronica selects aggressive, will take control and knows what he wants from the drop-down menu and slides off her stool to open the blinds in the living room. She stretches gracefully, re-ties her blue silk robe and takes two sips of decaf from the mug on the kitchen counter. Curves doesn't open for another hour. Wondering if she should put some laundry in, she glances at her laptop. Fifteen new messages. "Holy cow," she says out loud. "What the hell?" Missouri, Louisiana, North Dakota – the messages are from all over. Doms who think she's a sub. Reading through their nasty notions about what they want to do to her overwhelms Veronica. How these men regard her, the tone of their writing, the terms they use, what they are suggesting – another world cracks open. Veronica is shocked and aroused in a way that she cannot justify or understand. Veronica clicks on a message from her home town, from Nazareth, Pennsylvania. She anticipates similar content, but Tall, Dark and Handsome's message is eloquent. A connection arises in the barrage of intensity, perhaps because of the intensity that she has inadvertently summoned. Tall, Dark and Handsome has sent her a photo of himself. Forty-five, at the beach, squinting into the sun. His wife probably took the photo, thinks Veronica, relieved to return to the comfortable cynicism she maintains about online dating – deception at every turn. Yet, there is something about his boyish squint, something appealing about the twinkle in his eye. She clicks on her own profile to see what Tall, Dark and Handsome has referred to as white mountain peaks under a rather too tightly buttoned-up blouse. She hadn't given her photo that much thought, but she certainly hadn't intended for it to be misconstrued as an indication of a submissive nature. Veronica isn't oblivious to fetishisms surrounding women's undergarments from the 1950s – fishnet stockings, garter belts, negligees with feathery edges – but she's surprised at being included as a representative from a cultural phenomenon she has absolutely nothing to do with. Being thought of this way, by random strangers, makes her feel slightly queasy. Tightening her robe around her waist, she sends Tall, Dark and Handsome a quick reply. "I'm not a sub and frankly, you're a few years too young for me. Good luck in your search." She jumps off the stool to get ready for Curves. The phone rings. Her mother has had a fall. "Which hospital, Mom?" Veronica asks, before remembering that there's really only one hospital in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. "The hospital. The one you were born in Ronnie dear," her mother says. "I need to rent a car and pack a few things. I'll be there this afternoon. Just relax, OK?" Underwear, t-shirts, cashmere cardigan – all black – two white button-down shirts and jeans are pushed neatly into the bag she had been packing for the gym. Zipping her laptop into its case, Veronica wonders if she'll be able to squeeze in a work-out at the Curves in Nazareth after she gets her mother back to the house. *** Listening to the urgency of her own high heels in the hospital corridor, the potential for disaster comes into focus. "Room one-sixteen, room one-sixteen, room one-sixteen," she says over and over, to block out what might be happening. She might be perceived as the dutiful daughter returning home to take care of her ailing mother. She might be mistaken for that person. The click of her high heels seems to be shouting at her. Dutiful daughter, dutiful daughter, dutiful daughter. In her mind's eye, an image of her mother standing at the back door on the tiny landing that may or may not have dry rot. Neither Ronnie nor her mother really know what dry rot is. Veronica anticipates how she'll react to seeing her mother in a hospital bed. She takes a breath. The clock at the nurses' station says 12:30. Curves closes in half an hour, thinks Veronica. And they're closed tomorrow, Sunday. Rehearsing what she'll say to her mother, Veronica wonders how long she can leave the rental car in the passenger zone without it being ticketed or towed. Hello, how are you? Hi Mom, what happened? Mom, are you OK? Veronica needs more details, she wants information. All she knows is that her mother fell on the back steps. "Excuse me," she says, tapping a manicured nail on the counter at the nurses' station. A male administrator turns on his swivel chair. "Yes?" "My mother, Audrey Dorval is in room one-sixteen and I'm here to take her home. Is she ready to be discharged?" "Have you been in to see your mother yet?" he asks. Veronica reads the plastic nametag pinned over his heart. "No Tim, I haven't." On the verge of asking what are you implying Tim? Veronica places both palms flat on the counter and leans forward. Without her having to say anything more, Tim swivels back to the computer screen and says, "Let me take a look at her chart." A stress-glitch has Veronica half-thinking he means her mother's astrological chart. Gemini. You'll need help with even the smallest details at home. Get ready to welcome back a family member you've been estranged from. Tim's voice brings Veronica back. "Go and see your mother and I'll be there in a minute," he says calmly, pointing with great intention. "Down the hall, to your left." Veronica is not accustomed to being dealt with this way, fobbed off without a direct question being answered, but Tim's voice is both soothing and authoritative. Go and see your mother. Go and see your mother. To your left. To your left. To your left. Veronica walks in the direction Tim is pointing. It might be necessary for her to do what she's told without trying to control everyone and everything, she concludes. It might also be necessary to get a god-damned Ativan from somebody around here. *** Audrey Dorval's ankle is no longer killing her and the two gentlemen she's sharing room one-sixteen with no longer pose a threat. What a strange way to meet people, thinks Audrey, wishing she'd called her son in Maryland instead of making Ronnie come down from New York. Ronnie always over-reacts, thinks Audrey, sitting bolt upright under the covers, twisting the green bed sheet with both hands. Veronica regards her mother as small and almost harmless as she enters the room warily. Fighting back unexpected emotion, Veronica looks at the two elderly men on the opposite side of the room. "Fred says he'll take a look at the back steps once he gets his gall stones out," Audrey says as Veronica sits on the metal-legged chair next to her. "Who is Fred?" Veronica asks. "The one closest to the window," Audrey says quietly, gesturing with her delicate hand. Tim saunters in with a clipboard. "Mrs. Dorval will be ready to go home after lunch." "After lunch?" says Veronica. "What kind of prognosis is that?" "It's not a prognosis at all. It's more what you'd call a fact," he says, smiling. "Your mother sprained her ankle and bruised her hip. She'll be fine. She'll be able to get around the house with a cane." "What's for lunch?" Audrey asks. "Mac and cheese," Tim says on his way out of the room. "The service here is next to awful," Audrey tells Veronica in a whisper. Veronica takes her mother's hand. "I was so worried, Mom." "About what, dear?" "About you," Veronica says. "I'm fine. I told you I was fine on the phone." "No," says Veronica, feeling guilty for worrying about her own life being decimated, worrying about not getting to Curves, worrying about herself. "On the phone you said they weren't going to release you until there was someone here to take care of you." "And now you're here. Are you hungry Ronnie? You must be. Look at you. You're as thin as a rail in a picket fence." *** A nurse directs Veronica to a waiting area where she opens her laptop to check email. The guy in Nazareth has responded to her reply. "Funny that you used the word frankly, because that's my name. Not frankly, but Frank." Veronica laughs and continues reading. "Beyond that, I want to be honest and tell you that I am not forty-five. I'm fifty, which, I guarantee is not too young for you." Veronica laughs again, happy for the distraction from the problem at hand. If her mother's independence is threatened, Veronica's own autonomy is in jeopardy. "Additionally, I didn't say you were "a sub" because I'm not actually sure what that is, but your photo, your brassiere, to be more specific, did, I'll admit, strike a deep chord in me. I apologize for offending you. Perhaps we could meet for lunch, or take in a play, next time I'm in New York. I'm assuming you don't spend a lot of time in Nazareth, PA. Because… why would you? I'm not sure why I do, at this point, but that's another story, perhaps for another time." Frank has boldly included his telephone number. Take in a play, thinks Veronica. Who in Nazareth takes in a play when they visit New York? Maybe a car show or a hockey game, but not a play. Interesting. Veronica cannot resist writing back to Frank. "Strangely enough, I'm spending time in Nazareth right now. My mother lives here. I'm curious. Why a play and not a movie?" Frank, now that he has a name, now that he's in the same small town she's suddenly sitting in, is more real to her than just a few hours ago, when she was sitting in her kitchen, in what may as well be another country. Suddenly she isn't so sure that an evening with Frank would be such a bad thing. "What part of town are you in? Do you have a car?" she asks in a PS. Two minutes later, Frank replies. "Near Cherry and Wood and yes, of course I have a car. You've been living in New York too long. It's the law of the land to have a car in Nazareth." "Damn," she says out loud, remembering that she left the rental car in the passenger zone. As she's closing the laptop, her mother appears at her side in a wheelchair pushed by the nurse. "Your mother will need a cane," says the nurse with all the compassion of a mixed martial artist. "You can buy or rent one on the main floor." "Who would rent a cane?" asks Audrey, as Veronica wheels her into the hospital pharmacy. "An optimist?" suggests Veronica, now in a much better mood. *** "Hello?" Frank says answering the phone. "It's Veronica. From the website." "Hi," says Frank, crossing the room to close the door. "I'm glad you called." *** Half an hour later, Veronica walks into the Egg 'n Nest. Frank is already there, sitting in the far corner, near the pool table. "Funny place for two non-drinkers to meet," Veronica says, after greeting him. "Yes, very bold," Frank says. "And in broad daylight." "I feel like we're doing something bad," says Veronica, referring to the bar. "Are you doing something bad?" Frank asks. "Are you asking me if I'm married?" "Yes, I suppose so," says Frank. "No, I'm one hundred per cent single," Veronica says. "Maybe you'd like to be bad," Frank says, sliding his chair closer to Veronica. "I think you have a decidedly naughty streak." "Wow," Veronica says. "You move fast." "Here we are, two consenting adults," Frank says. "You said you wanted an aggressive man who takes control." "Yes, I suppose I did," Veronica says, thinking back to the drop-down menu on the website. "But there's something to be said for getting to know that man before he takes control." "What would you like to know?" asks Frank. Veronica thinks for a minute. "Why did you suggest seeing a play and not a movie?" "I used to work in theater. I'm a set builder. Was a set builder." "And I'd like to know your definition of naughty," she says. Frank laughs, appreciating her gesture of using the word naughty, without any sense of mocking him. "I did a little online research and I found some interesting things about the word sub." "Go on," Veronica says. "It refers to a preference and is usually paired within the term domination and submission. My understanding is that the sub wants to obey the Dom, the dominant partner, as some sort of a release or to push boundaries. There's a role playing aspect to it that accounts for the corny costumes and codified lingo. Activities are focused on facilitating a power exchange that occurs within scenes limited to what has been agreed on beforehand." Veronica laughs nervously. "I guess I had that basic awareness, but I doubt it has ever been described quite that way." "How so?" asks Frank, looking embarrassed. "Oh," says Veronica, touching his arm. "I meant that in a good way. Actually, it sounds like something I'd come up with." "We do express ourselves similarly," Frank says. Veronica leans forward, hands in her lap. "Getting messages from guys calling themselves Doms, I was astonished that they assumed I was a sub. They spoke to me in a way that was extremely crude. I rejected the word sub, because I didn't know what it meant to them and they seemed so certain about it." "What were they saying?" "This one guy, from Louisiana, a big fat guy. A big fat ugly guy that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole," Veronica says, relieved to be able to talk about it. "He told me he was looking for 24/7 and that he would have no qualms about beating me into submission." "What the fuck?" says Frank, starting to see why Veronica had been rattled in their initial communication. "He said he already had a sub and he was looking for another one. Other than that, I can't really repeat the things they said." "Can I get you something?" Frank asks. "A cup of tea?" "A cup of tea would be perfect. Thank you." Veronica watches Frank at the bar twenty feet away. The intermittent music is coming from a jukebox at the back of the bar, where two men – outdoorsmen of some kind – are taking turns picking songs. Frank carries the tray of tea confidently and, rather than sliding it onto their table, he sets it down on the next table and serves Veronica with a theatrical emphasis intending to show her that he's making an effort. He wants to separate himself from the men she has described. "Thank you Frank, that is very lovely of you," she says with genuine appreciation. They sit in acceptable silence, preparing their tea, noting each other's preferences. "Check out the two guys beside the jukebox," Frank says. "DJ Duck Call and DJ Personal Flotation Device." "So far so good with the music, though," says Veronica, laughing. "Springsteen, Mellencamp and Streisand." "Sounds like a law firm," Frank says and Veronica laughs. Frank is happy to be able to do that; to make Veronica laugh. "I wonder which one of them is going for Streisand," she says. "It's gotta be DJ Duck Call," Frank says. "Check out the extended pinky on that can of Bud." Veronica, becoming comfortable with Frank, has a moment of re-evaluating their online exchange earlier that day. Knowing that the ease between them is being built on a flux of heightened emotions and unexpected travel due to her mother's accident, Veronica doesn't want to lose herself. She doesn't want to lose control of the situation. Typically when she meets a man for the first time, a man from the dating website, she creates opportunities to assess specific criteria. Is he self-effacing? Does he listen to her? Is he able to give her a compliment? In attempting to return to her methods of assessment, she recognizes that the situation she's in requires a different approach. Something has already transpired between them. She has already allowed Frank in and he is keenly aware of it. "Frank," she says. "This is a bit awkward to bring up, but I was watching you standing at the bar and I couldn't help but notice that you're not six feet tall." Having already established that he lied about his age on his profile, Veronica is now more interested in Frank's reaction when confronted. Will he get defensive? We he blow up and blame her for making something out of nothing? "Is that going to be a problem for you, Veronica?" Frank asks, maintaining his composure. Proceeding, Frank knows, requires trust, the trust that he has already jeopardized by misrepresenting himself. "I mean it. Do you think you can trust me?" "I don't want to confuse my wanting to trust you with believing what you tell me," Veronica says. "If there are any other things on your profile that aren't true, now would be the time to tell me and then we can see where things stand." "I created my profile for the purpose of meeting women to have sex with. Plain and simple. In those moments, clicking various boxes, I made decisions based on my objective. I wasn't expecting to meet someone like you. I wasn't intending to meet anyone remotely like you." "And did you meet women and have sex?" "Yes." "And what about me? What about my profile made you think I was a viable candidate for a one night stand?" Veronica asks, crossing her arms. "Nothing," Frank says. "You're a whole different thing." "How so?" "I met women for sex and I became frustrated with that. I mean, come on. Look where we are. Who do you think I'm meeting here?" "I can only imagine," says Veronica, looking over at the guys at the jukebox, aluminum beer cans accumulating between them. "I was looking at women in New York because I wanted to meet someone more interesting. I saw your photo and you looked so robust. It was like you were daring me to say something to you. You're a solid, entirely complete human, and more than a little intimidating, but I wanted to know you." "And the bra? How does that figure into it?" "It gave me an impression of your breasts being bound and by saying that, I know I risk a negative reaction, but I'll continue," Frank says, looking down at Veronica's large breasts underneath her black cashmere cardigan. "I would like to use a length of soft white rope to gently bind you." Veronica, aroused by his suggestion, feels her face redden. "OK," she says slowly. "So we're establishing the possibility of a common interest. Have you ever done this before?" "No," says Frank. "It has to do with you – and the photo." Veronica is turning the square white serviette clockwise on the table, watching the Egg 'n Nest logo right-side-up and upside down, wondering if it's Egg in Nest or Egg and Nest. "Back to my question," she says, intentionally preoccupied with turning the serviette. "Is there anything else on your profile that isn't true?" "I'm married," Frank says. Veronica has put a lot of effort into avoiding married men – and liars. Her initial online questions intend to determine the likelihood of either. The two, of course, go hand in hand. Men lie about being married. She will not communicate with men who don't have photos on their profiles. If a man tells her that he has taken a few years off his age, she moves on. But now she is operating without a compass. Destabilized by the day's events, sitting with Frank, a man who represents the possibility of experiencing something extremely exciting, Veronica notices that her reactions are different. Perhaps being with a married man is safer, she thinks. "What's your last name Frank?" "MacLean," says Frank without missing a beat, giving Veronica what she needs, giving up anonymity to make her feel comfortable. With a woman like her, he doesn't need to consider if she is worth it or not. She is. "If I was to look you up, would I find you listed?" "Yes. Like I said. On Cherry." Frank's voice is normal. Matter of fact. "I know you need to trust me. I understand that." "I'd like to limit it to a non-sexual situation." "How do you mean?" "I mean, that we won't have sex. Intercourse. That what we do won't include penetration or oral sex." Frank sips his tea and considers the concept in a way that he hadn't anticipated; she's right, they will need to create a structure and adhere to it, otherwise the flood of images in his mind will hinder them. If Veronica relinquishes control, he needs to know, in all seriousness, what that means to her, where her limits are. He must stay within them to avoid disaster. Some of this has been gleaned through his research earlier that day, but as he visualizes what may happen next, he understands that he doesn't want to be entirely responsible, that he cannot be. Veronica needs to say what she wants to have happen. Veronica is actually in control. "OK," he says. "This is very important. We need to talk about exactly what is going to happen." "Yes, I see this as essential," Veronica says glancing at her watch. "What time does the hardware store on Main close?" Frank laughs with a sense of relief. "Listen," he says. "Let's keep it simple and not freak ourselves out. Here's my suggestion. Let's play a game of pool, get to know each other and keep talking." "Sounds good," Veronica says, pushing back her chair. *** The crack of his break reverberates off the brick walls of the Egg 'n Nest. A solid ball rolls into a side pocket. It's still Frank's shot. "Tell me a story about your parents," Veronica says, skipping back in time to avoid the subject of his wife. "A story that says something about your origins." "OK, here's a story my father loved to tell. How he grew up in Pensacola, Florida – the poorest family on the poorest street in the poorest part of town – which is almost the only thing he has ever said about his childhood," says Frank, leaning on his pool cue, waiting for Veronica to take her shot. "My grandfather Sheldon had a car accident, very quietly, on Orange Street, plowing directly into the pink grapefruit grove on the other side of the road. Evidently he was looking at a map at the time, while my father, age five or six, was in the backseat wondering what it would be like to be flying instead of driving, looking down on Orange Street and all the pink grapefruits in the grove. My father says he wanted to know how far the pink grapefruit grove extended on each side of Orange Street and why it was called Orange Street. He was up on his knees, palms flat against the side window, trying to see if the road was painted orange, like the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz. That's when Sheldon crossed the center line and drove Herman Dubois' 1940 Chrysler Saratoga off the road. My father, of course, wasn't wearing a seatbelt, because there were no seatbelts in the vehicle." "Because they hadn't started putting them in cars yet, right?" says Veronica, missing her shot in the corner pocket. "The story my father tells is that Herman had cut the dad-blame things out and used them for a belt for his pants and a strap to keep his shoe shine kit closed," says Frank. "His Airedale Deborah had taken a shine to the polish." "A shine to the polish?" says Veronica. "You're making that up." "No, that's the story the way my father tells it," Frank says, and sinks the last ball in the side pocket. They return to their table. "How about this for a plan," Frank says with a twinkle in his eye. "I'll get the rope and meet you at the Hampton Inn on the other side of I-33." Veronica laughs. "I'm glad you laughed," says Frank. "But we should make a plan if we intend to proceed today." "Is there a Hampton Inn on the other side of I-33?" "Yes," says Frank. "Past Sears." "So, what time does the hardware store close?" "Good question," says Frank, looking at his watch. "So you're serious?" "Yes," she replies. "Once we're in the room, I will ask you to sit on the bed and unbutton your shirt." "Can I interrupt you?" "Now or then?" Frank says, smiling. "I think it will work better for me, if, rather than asking me, you tell me to unbutton my shirt." "Right. I see," says Frank. "I want you to do this slowly while maintaining eye contact with me. Are you wearing the bra in the photo?" "No." "Oh," says Frank. "That's disappointing," "Sorry." "OK, no problem," says Frank. "I will tell you to remove your bra." Frank pauses, staring at Veronica. "What?" asks Veronica. "When I see your tits I am going to want to fuck you." "Frank! That is very destructive to the process," Veronica says, a mock scolding that is perhaps too provocative. "Do you know for sure that you can control yourself?" "Yes, I can control myself," says Frank. "I will tell you to place your hands behind your back and I'll tie your wrists together." "Wait," Veronica says. "We didn't say anything about my wrists being tied." "I see this as an exercise in restraint, where the appeal for me is that I'm in control. That you lose control, give up control." Veronica is intensely turned on by this and simultaneously frightened. She can't see allowing this to happen, knowing that he has lied, that he's married. "Veronica, are you afraid that I'll hurt you?" "No, not really. I mean, yes. For god's sake, I'm talking about going to a motel with a guy I met an hour ago and allowing myself to be tied up. This is nuts. Would anyone say this is a good idea for a first date?" "Let's not tie your wrists. It's a bad idea. What I'll do is come and sit beside you on the bed and gently put the rope around you, under your breasts. I'll just wrap the rope around you, not too tight, and tuck the end under. This isn't about causing you pain; this is a visual exercise." "Are you sure you haven't done this before?" "Does it seem like I know what I'm doing?" Frank says, reaching out across the table and touching Veronica's cheek lightly, looking into her eyes. "Yes, and that's very appealing," she says. "You're very sweet, you know. I mean, I understand that you're fiercely independent, but you have a very gentle sweetness about you." "Thank you," Veronica says softly. "I am following your lead here," Frank says. "I appreciate you saying that." "I will take the other end of the rope and crisscross it between your breasts, firmly, to support them." "OK," says Veronica with some difficulty believing that she is talking about this, let alone planning to do this with a total stranger. "I think that will be enough for one day," says Frank. "And if we decide to meet again, we can discuss some other things." "OK," says Veronica, sounding relaxed, comfortable enough with their plan. "What other things?" "I would like to see you bound at the wrists and ankles," Frank says. "Lying naked on your side, bound at the knees. I'd like to see you gagged, unable to move or call out." "Christ," Veronica says, apprehension returning. Apprehension mixed with a powerful lust. "I don't know," Frank says, leaning back in his chair. "That's just a fantasy, really. A compelling image, but it has little to do with today." "This will be confidential, right?" says Veronica. "No one else will know what we do." "It is most definitely between you and I," says Frank. "Come on. I'm married." "For today, maybe I could be told to sit on my hands after you bind me, to restrain me symbolically. Otherwise, when I visualize this, I don't know where my hands should be." "That's a good idea. When I've bound your breasts, you will sit on your hands." "I like that. The idea of punishment," says Veronica, tentatively. "Perhaps we should include a token spanking then," Frank says mischievously. "Perhaps we should." "You'll pull down your pants and get across my lap," Frank says. He looks at his watch. Veronica laughs. "I think we have a plan. We should get going." "Wait," Frank says. "We're going to stick to the not having sex part, right? You're not going to change your mind on that, right? I need to know." "Yes," says Veronica. "I mean, no. We aren't going to have sex." "How does this end?" asks Frank. "While you're spanking me, I'd like you to tell me that I'm a bad girl." "Those exact words?" Franks asks. "Bad girl?" "Well, maybe you can be a bit more emphatic," Veronica says coyly, wanting to put the responsibility on Frank to choose the words. "I think it is important that you choose the words," Frank says. "I don't want to say something offensive to you. Do you want me to talk dirty?" "I think so," she says. "But I can't really believe I'm having this conversation." Veronica and Frank both understand that they are fairly unlikely candidates who have found their way to a place of communication, enough trust and a desire to explore what they have mostly only been curious about. Options rush at them from idiosyncratic sources. In the escalating conversation, they have both vacillated between wanting it all and pulling the plug entirely. The whole thing has been punctuated by periodic glances at their watches. "What time does the hardware store close on a Saturday?" asks Frank.