“A photograph is a secret about a secret.”

The sun is dwindling, casting grey shadows that catch me off guard from one moment to the next in the change in hue. I’m laid up in bed with a heating pad blazing doing anything I can to alleviate my pain. *You pushed too hard today*, I think wistfully, torn between the pleasure in a tough full day serving Master and the pain of aggravating my condition. 
The twilight sunset shade (I wish I was out there, walking, wandering, as it’s my favorite hour but here I lay instead) is cast about halfway up the wall of our master bedroom (Master’s bedroom, I think with a lift of a smile despite the hurt). It illuminates a photograph. A new one, black and white, square. It’s rare for us to have a photo printed; we mostly keep art, decorative photography, murals around.
I stare at this one that was snapped a few months ago now hung directly across from my side of our bed. It’s us. Simple and complicated as that.
I’m there on the right which put me in the moment on his left which I remember with clarity. I wear a simple black dress with a low cut V in front showing off the hint of cleavage. My hair is white, a stark contrast to my clothing, and pinned in the back. All you can really see is a tight twist that follows from my crown to behind my ear, light as can be. Simple earrings and evening makeup is indicative of a night out. I look classy, maybe even elegant. 
Then there’s him. *Swoon*. How does he always look so damn good? He’s always ready on time in half the time and none of the tornado of clothes flung of hangers like me. Dark hair. Light eyes. Charcoal dress shirt not because the black and white transformation of photo but because it was that in real life. I remember. His beard is a little longer than it is now (it was Spring then, I fondly recall, Spring in New Orleans, the French Quarter specifically, with live jazz music trumpeting behind us). His dark beard is speckled with silver more and more each year. I feel like it’s grows proportionally to my love for him. For this Dominant man I call, “Sir.”
Each year more grey. 
Each year more love.
Also still, too, lust.
You can only see us from the chest up, he on the left of the frame, I on the right. It’s so basic. One couple, staring directly, smiling deep real grins, cropped close, desaturated. The sides of our heads touch lightly, connected comfortably, as if we’re glad for the excuse to be another inch closer.
So why? Why pick a pic from one of a thousand standard couple selfies and actually go somewhere to do the unfathomable: print it off, pick it up, special order a special square frame that goes with the other art in Master’s bedroom, undo the doo-hickeys on the back of the frame, clean the glass, pop it in, fetch a nail, hang it wrong, pull it out, and finally hang it right? Hang it right…across from where the slave falls asleep at night?
Because it’s us there too. The real us. 
Everybody else walks in and sees it and thinks… nothing. Nothing unusual or remarkable certainly. Maybe, “that’s nice” or “pretty frame.” It’s unassuming. 
But I know. We know.
As I lay in the coming darkness and wait on coming relief this photo shows me *us.* 
I can step back inside myself to the bar where we were sitting. *At* the bar in fact. My phone is propped up against a sweating glass in front of me (I am actually at Sir’s left in the stool he pulled out for me upon entry, indicating silently where he wanted me sitting, but *I* knew the order. We knew.) It is a rum and diet, double, a change up in my typical order of vodka martini. Master switched it up too. Tequila of all silly things. I wondered why he opted differently tonight. Maybe it was the new city, the strange smells. But I don’t ask. He leads, I follow.
I set the camera on the bar top to front facing and it shone our way. Three second timer, just long enough to hit the button, move your hand away, pose, smile. We did it once. The show was to begin soon.
I put away the phone and looked at him, still grinning cheesily, feeling buzzed on excitement and the strong drink and his presence. He kisses my forehead, reaches into the pocket on his smooth slacks, and like a man trying to bribe a hostess slides some*thing* into my small hand. I know my sadist well enough not to look right here in the getting crowded club, surrounded by many others waiting to watch stunning women moves their curves just so. I clutch my hand around the plastic cylinder about an inch or so. One eyebrow raised asks him the question well enough. 
“You probably want to use the restroom before we get seated my love.” 
It’s not a suggestion, no. Maybe to others. But I know. 
I lean forward to smooch him on the lips before leaving and he surprises me by cupping the back of my neck and pressing me in towards him deeper. It’s a real kiss, not a “I’ll be back in five” kiss that peppers our day. 
It’s a kiss belonging to the real us, not the facade often worn. I give into it.
Our tongue touch and taste both foreign from unusual drinks on our palate and suddenly like home. I let out a slight moan as he bites my lower lip. And just a sudden as it began, it’s over. 
But I know. We both know. We’re here.
Fist still clenched I grab my tiny bag carrying lipstick, mints, and the phone holding the one picture from this one night to be hung in the bedroom months later. The photo well forgotten now I walk through the high class bar (high ceilings, high prices, fancy wallpaper, fancy people) to find the bathroom. I’m anxious to peek at my gift but no. I can wait. This is our deal. Unassuming in the world.
Pulling the heavy door open, a pink and black powder room envelops me and I hurry to the closest available stall. I can feel my heart pounding (I may have learned him, and this, but the raw thrill never goes away), hang my clutch, and open up. 
There’s a tube there, a small one with a dropper on top. I read the directions on the back in teensy print. A drop or two onto the clit. Rub it in. Arousal gel. Huh.
I pull up my tight dress (nothing underneath tonight, just the dress and some heels) and open the gel. One drop, two… A third for good measure. I tentatively touch myself there and find myself already warm and damp. It only takes 15 seconds or so, circling, three fingers flat, before the tingling begins. My pussy quickly moves from warm to hot in a very serious way. It’s like a nights worth of friction in an instant. I’m in love.
I pull some tissue and wipe my hands, add the blessed bottle to my bag, and float on air back to him.
A large chested raven haired girl behind the bar is chatting with him; she’s laughing a tad louder than I’d expect. Sir is smiling but glancing at his watch (*the one I got him for Christmas the year before he became a father*, I remember feeling nostalgic) and then glances up to me, to where he knows I was. More and more he dislikes being apart. Me too. His smile shifts to the real one, the one that belongs to *us*. 
It’s a matching grin to the one in the black and white photograph across from me. 
He nods to the bartender as he stands to greet me. “Good?” he asks when I arrive back to his arms. 
“Great!” I smile and embrace him. And holy shit I *am*. 
Just walking back has my whole underside ablaze. My clit feels swollen, my lips are full too. 
My Dominant grabs my hand and in one old fashioned seeming gesture he kisses the back of my hand. It’s soft, sweet seeming even. But I know. We know. He wants to smell me, smell where I just touched and rubbed and heated. It melts my insides and I feel heavy with want of him.
He leads me by the elbow to our main seat in the small central room turned theater in the round. Loveseat and armchairs and plush pillows create a mishmash circle for the audience of the show to come. A burlesque show, a night of beauty and dance and femininity. A night of nudity, or lust, of fantasy fulfilled.
Master sits in a soft golden chair front and center. He paid for two seats of course, in fairness to the venue. Mine is next to his, a wooden chair with black leather seat. I look to him and silently, among the midst of streaming strangers (mostly couples, some friendly groups, all seeming excited at the sexual scene to come) he gives a slight nod down. With poise and grace and years of training on my side I slide to one knee, then another, in front of my seat. I lean my head against his knee, Master’s comfort and presence wafting onto me, and wait peacefully for the night to come.
The night, the show, the tiny dark woman who brought a bathtub into the middle of the room not a for from me and bathed slowly while meeting eyes with us (dare I say seeing the real us), the steam  that came that night, the final colliding of our bodies together, well, that’s all for another time. 
Tonight is about that photograph. That monochromatic glimpse of a moment in time. Innocuous. Unassuming. Hanging around in our family home, a smoke and mirrors trick that only Master and I know the secret too. 
There’s this photograph, yes. But reach in, look deeper, you’ll see the real us hiding in there. I know. We know. 

*“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”*

— Diane Arbus

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