Picture a cheating wife alone, at home, husband away on business. She's getting ready for a date with her lover.
Why not pick up the phone, dial her number and tell her what a naughty girl she is and how she should be punished? That's what happens to the wife in 'The Voice at the End of the Line', and her caller gets her to spill some things that give a fascinating insight into the psyche of a wife who sleeps around behind her husbands back. But first, we get some nice titillation for those of us with a jewellery fetish:
I've got a choker around my neck – it's about an inch wide, navy velvet – I wear a lot of navy blue – with a Victorian brooch at my throat. I'm wearing a gold watch.' I pause, realising that I've told him all this to cover up my nervousness. 'And a couple of rings. A wedding ring. I'm married.'
'Why are you half-naked at seven o'clock in the evening? Why are you putting on so much make-up?'
'I'm going out. For a meal. With somebody.'
'Are you going out for a meal with your husband?'
'No,' I tell him. A pause. 'I'm going out with a colleague from work.' A longer, more eloquent pause. 'A male colleague.' Then in a rush: 'My husband's working late and, anyway, he doesn't mind. He knows.'
'Does he? Did you tell him?'
'No. He just knows.
'Now tell me about your date tonight.'
'It's not a date. I'm just having dinner with a colleague. There's some business we need to discuss, there wasn't time at work.' It sounds feeble even to me, although when I said it on the phone to Paul, my husband, this afternoon it sounded perfectly plausible. Paul certainly accepted my tale although, to be honest, I made a point of calling when I knew he'd be busy and wouldn't want to talk. In any case, he's out most evenings himself. That's partly the trouble: if he were at home more I wouldn't be looking around for distractions like Donald. I'm not sure I even like Donald all that much. My mind wanders but is brought to heel again by the Voice.
'Don't bother lying to me. I know about Donald Danvers and the quick business talks over drinks and meals. They take place at his home where very little is eaten and I suspect not much talking is done, although probably drinks are consumed and as for business – well we don't want to get vulgar, do we?'
'My husband's gone off me. He comes home late. He ignores me. We don't...' I try again. 'We don't have sex very often. I met Don at work. We get on okay. It's something to do. That's all.'
'What would Donald say if he saw you now, posing almost naked for a stranger? What would your husband say?'
'I don't know how Don would react. I don't know him very well really. Paul would probably be angry,' I tell him.
'Only probably? Aren't you certain? Tell me exactly what you think he would do,' the Voice persists.
'He'd be angry with me, that's all.'
'I'm growing tired of this conversation. I disagree with you. I do excite you. All men do. You're just naturally promiscuous, Julia, and Paul knows it. You are a wanton, easy slut and need to be brought into line. Do you understand?' His tone has become sharper, authoritative, like a Victorian master addressing an erring scullery maid.
Ah the classic cries of the faithless wife. 'He doesn't mind', 'he doesnt satisfy me anymore'. It's all rot of course, as the upstanding gentleman on the other end of the phone line makes clear. Julia's hubby could shag her senseless every night and she'd still stray given half a chance. That's the trouble with these modern career women, they want it all. Her husband's to blame too of course. If you don't give your wife the stick to keep her in line, she'll be off with other men getting a very different kind of stick!
'Let's get down to business. You've been behaving like a whore ever since you got married, and probably before, but I won't concern myself with that. How many men have you slept with since marrying Paul?'
'Six! And you think Paul doesn't know?' He sounds incredulous.
'I'm sure I've been discreet. Anyway, he wouldn't mind.'
'Wouldn't he? Well, I mind! It's obscene the way modern women flout their wedding vows. They mock the institution of marriage itself. Just because you go to work, it doesn't mean you can forget your station in life. You're a woman and your function is to serve and respect men in general and support and obey your husband in particular. You seem not to understand this, Julia, so I'm going to help you learn. Go and put some shoes on. The high-heeled navy blue mules, since it's your favourite colour.'
Just because a man is enforcing the sanctity of other people's marriage beds doesn't mean he can't appreciate a pair of nice heels! Of course this powerful man is able to convince her of the error of her ways and make her agree to submit to punishment, all the while reminding us of the sordid details of her naughtiness!
'Even if Paul chooses to ignore your infidelity and disrespect, someone has to bring you to heel. You make your husband a laughing stock and act like a bitch in heat. It's time you learnt some humility and self-control. Spread your legs wider. Let your arms and belly take the weight. I want those legs really stretched and that bum wide open and displayed. That's good. How many of your lovers have seen you like this? You're really quite an exhibitionist aren't you? I'm sure you're enjoying our talk more than you'll admit.' I groan; I'll admit nothing to this pervert.
'You are an immoral slut and are about to be suitably chastised. Stay still. I'm taking off my belt. It's wide; thick leather made supple by age. It's got a very heavy buckle. Take your punishment well and I won't use the buckle end on you.
You are right to be worried. My belt is going to warm up that backside of yours. I think six strokes, one for each of your lovers.'
I struggle to regain control of myself. 'I've slept with other men since I got married; I've not respected my husband,' I recite...