Desire in Any Language by Anastasia VitskyPrivate tutoring with a womanly touch, but the combined pressures of culture and language difference threaten Mira's progress at school. She is unable to get her act together until she makes a discovery that horrifies and tantalizes her: in her new country, corporal punishment is a way of life.
On her own for the first time, Mira is studying abroad for her translator's certificate. Unfortunately, the heady excitement of dance clubs, late-night parties, and endless shopping quickly distracts her from her educational goals. Mira's advisor offers her private tutoring with a womanly touch, but the combined pressures of culture and language difference threaten Mira's progress at school. She is unable to get her act together until she makes a discovery that horrifies and tantalizes her: in her new country, corporal punishment is a way of life. The secret to her academic success just might also fulfill her wildest, unspoken dreams.
Sexy. Seductive. Dangerous. A compelling and poignant read.
Desire in Any Language is the newest F/F title offered by Blushing.
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Desire in Any Language (Sample Chapter)
Mira thought she wanted a spanking. What she got was love. F/F
© Anastasia Vitsky and Blushing Books, 2012-2013
Flushed with the exertion of climbing three flights of stairs in the post-summer heat, I peek into the office she shares with several colleagues. I'm nearly thirty minutes late, a good twenty minutes later than the oh-so-casual ten-minute-late arrival I'd originally intended. Last week I was a good five minutes early, hiding myself behind pretend homework to avert the glances of her colleagues apologizing to me for her lateness. Today I've already sent an apology text message to her cell phone, but as I slip into the room the apologies are still bursting forth.
"I'm sorry, the bus was late and it was raining so it was slippery and I couldn't find my umbrella and anyway I spent the entire time on the bus studying..."
She just smiles and points me to the empty chair of the desk next to her. She offers me something to drink which I refuse politely. She insists politely, and I refuse again. It's our custom, sometimes waived by her finally setting a cup of tea in front of me and my drinking it half out of desire and half from politeness. In the past few months I have become more and more comfortable with her each week, but I still cling to our little tea ritual. Imitating a proper girl.
Today as she uncaps her red pen and bends her head over my notebook, I find myself holding my breath. "Did you do this on the bus ride here?" she teases.
Mustering my best attempt at indignation, I shake my head. "Of course not!" In the coffee shop the hour before I boarded the bus, I silently add in my head. No need to give more information than is required.
"I'm impressed," she says warmly even as the ink flows in dark bloodstains on my paper. I wrinkle my nose at all of her corrections. No matter how hard I try to write my compositions accurately, I always mess up a conjugation or idiom or how to use an article. "Don't be discouraged," she says, without even looking up from the paper. "It always takes time to be able to write in a foreign language. You're doing really quite well."
I decide that this isn't an invitation for complaints about the difficulty of study abroad, and I merely make a non-committal shake of the head. She turns the page, and I hear a quick intake of breath. Her voice is puzzled.
"I think you lost a page from your notebook."
"I-um...not exactly..." I blush. I'm glad that we're talking in English so that the other teachers in her office can't understand us, but I lower my voice anyway. "I meant to finish the essay but I was a little sick yesterday and the day before that I got a phone call from a friend back home..."
She nods her head thoughtfully. I squirm. She's not one for interrogation, but sometimes the earnest silence is just as effective.
"I'm sorry," I finish lamely.
The silence dangles between us like a screen gradually descending, and her unsaid thoughts flicker toward me. Her busy schedule teaching full-time and helping to take care of her ailing father. Her dedication to her work and spontaneous offer to meet with me during her precious one free night of the week. Her reassurances, at my expressions of doubt and guilt at taking her time, that she loved tutoring and her reward would be to see my progress. She takes off her glasses, rubs at the small hollow between her eyes where the pads left red indentations, and sighs. For a moment I wonder if I'm about to receive my first lecture ever. She's not one to scold, and at only four years older she's been low-key about her position of authority. I want to apologize, but at this point words seem rather meaningless.
After a moment, she begins in quite a different tone. "I think it's been a long week for both of us. Why don't we stop here?"
"I'm sorry…" It comes out involuntarily, but she shakes her head.
"It's all right. We'll try again next week." She pats me on the arm, and for a moment I want to lean into her touch.
Don't leave, I think, and push away the unbidden thought. I imagine myself bringing in a glorious composition and seeing her pride and satisfaction. I think back to my time frittered away on trashy television and hideously expensive trans-Pacific phone calls, and I wish desperately I could go back a few days in time to prepare the most magnificent essay possible. Instead, she smiles again in what I know is my cue to leave.
I'm sorry! I cry again silently. For wasting your time. For these last few weeks when my heart has been elsewhere and I can't make myself write. I'm sorry you thought so much of me last fall, that time when we first met. It's nice to be believed in, but it's also a little burdensome. There's always the fear that one's warts will eventually show through. She gives me a final nod as I put my notebook and pencil back into my backpack.
"Mira," she says with unexpected sternness just before I'm out the door, and I dart back inside. "You're giving up on yourself. You can do better." I duck into the hallway quickly, the back of my nose prickling with sudden swallowed-back tears.
Six days, twenty-three hours, and fifty-five minutes later, I stand uncertainly outside of her office door. One of the other teachers sees me and tries to usher me inside, but I smile awkwardly and pretend to search for something in my pocket. He is still waiting with the door courteously open. I shrug embarrassedly and acquiesce.
"Your student arrived," he announces, adding a rapid-fire stream that sounds vaguely like, "Come in, make yourself comfortable, sit down, you must be tired, what a long journey you make every week."
She smiles at me. I forgot how brightly she smiles, how her eyes lift and sparkle as if opening a present.
"Just a minute," she says, and I notice the teen-age boy standing next to her chair. I can't catch the speech on her part, but his half-sullen, half-remorseful downward gaze makes it clear he is receiving a reprimand of some kind. He stretches the palms of his hands out in front of him, and without warning the "rod of love," as it is referred to by the teachers, flashes through the air and downward against his palms. He makes no sound, but I gasp. I honestly thought that the threat of the stick was merely that, a threat similar to my mother's warning that the bogeyman would get me if I threw a tantrum one more time.
As he shakes out his hands, gathers his books and leaves the office, I sidle past him with a furtive peep at his hands. I see a few painful-looking red lines, but he catches my gaze and I look away in embarrassment.
"Mira!" she calls out to me cheerfully, as if I haven't just witnessed her transformation from Nice Teacher into, well, Someone Scary. "Do come and sit down. Would you like green or chamomile tea?" She pulls out the rolling chair next to her.
"Um, no thanks...I...um..." The long, shiny polished stick lying next to her desk is decidedly interfering with my concentration. It must be our day to skip the ritual offering and refusing. She ignores my stammering and pours me a cup of hot water and steeps it with a small scoop of tea leaves. Not the boiling-steaming water that turns tea bitter, but the cool-hot water just right for drinking in small sips. Unthinkingly, I take a gulp and immediately suck on my scalded tongue.
"How was your week?" she asks me. "Did you have any trouble with your translation? I didn't get any e-mail from you, so I assumed you were managing all right."
"Did you really...I mean...I didn't think you...you really..." my voice trails off. She is puzzled at my non sequitur until she follows my gaze to the "rod of love." It's a nasty-looking instrument, longer than my arm and thicker around than my thumb. Well, almost.
"Oh, that." She laughs warmly. "Don't worry. For one thing, you're not one of my high-school students. And my star student already has my love without my using the 'rod of love.'"
Ordinarily I would groan at her weak pun, but today the words "star student" hit a tender spot in my chest. Wordlessly because there will never be the right words, I unfold the papers clutched in my hand and thrust them toward her.
"What are these?"
I stare hard at the pale blue forget-me-nots on my teacup as if they will magically provide an answer. Or prevent me from having to answer. She rustles the papers, glances through them, and touches my arm.
"Mira, what's wrong?" she asks in alarm. "Are you ill? Do you have a family emergency?" I shake my head mutely. "Are you in some trouble? What can I do to help?"
I only shake my head again. How would I know she would be so shamefully nice about this? "I'm okay," I manage to say. "There's no big problem."
"Then why are you leaving?"
"I just—I can't do it."
"You can't do what? Your compositions are brilliant! Or would be if you gave yourself more time to work on them..." Suddenly her voice hardens.
"Mira, look me in the eye and tell me that this isn't some crazy ploy to get out of telling me that you haven't done your homework for today."
Oh crap. I thought she didn't do interrogations. I thought she was Encouragement and Cheerleading and Meticulous Dedication, not some psychic mind reader suddenly seeming far more than four years older.
"Could you just sign it?" I mumble. Even though her tutoring is private, it is still an official registered class. It was, naturally, she who waded through the mounds of paperwork and red tape to give me transcript credit for her after-hours labor of love.
"I could sign it," she says in a strange voice.
I involuntarily look up to see such vulnerability and hurt on her face that I again have to look down. Blinking the tears away.
"I could sign it and let you walk away from the months you've invested in this school—all because you couldn't take one day to complete your work. I hope you're not planning to attend another language institute in the near future because a drop-fail will hardly help your chances for admission. Is that what you want?"
I hadn't thought about jeopardizing future school plans, but I have to admit that she is right. Suddenly this all seems a lot more serious than I thought. I thought I could just pick up and leave on a whim. After all, I've already done the college thing. This is just extra. But if I want to become a translator, at least some official credentials are needed.
"No," I admit in a small voice.
"What do you want, Mira? Have you thought anything except just to run away?"
"Why are you scolding me?" I ask plaintively. I know it's a mistake even before the words are out, and her voice stiffens.
"What do you want me to say? 'Yes, go ahead. Walk away. Give up on yourself.' Do you really want me to say that?"
The tears are becoming dangerously close now. This lecture might be a once-in-nine-months occurrence, but she's certainly packing enough punch to make up for lost time.
"I'm sorry," I murmur. Her warm, sweet-smelling arm rests on my back and gently presses me to lean against her.
"Don't be sorry," she says in her familiar gentle voice. "Be persistent. You owe it to yourself to give it another try." I can only nod as the tears slip noiselessly through my closed eyelids.
"I'm sorry," I say after a moment. "I don't really want to leave."
"I know." She lets me rest against her for a moment. I pull away, sniffling and wiping my eyes with the back of my hand.
"And I think we need to make some changes in our modus operandi."
Her gaze wanders briefly to the "rod of love" lying horizontally across her desk. Her eyes search my face questioningly. I gulp. Me? Like a high-schooler? Finally, I give the smallest possible nod.
That night her warning rings uncomfortably in my ears.
"I think we should end today with your first taste of discipline."
"Oh please no...I promise I'll be motivated and focused without it...please just one more chance."
"If we don't get the first time over with now, you'll obsess about it for the rest of the week."
"Oh no, I promise. I swear that, now I know you mean business, the threat will be effective enough by itself. You'll never have to use it even once."
"I don't want you afraid. That's not what it's for."
"I'm not afraid! I swear. If I don't have all of my work done by next week I'll take twice the usual punishment without a peep of complaint."
"All right, Mira. I don't think it's wise, but perhaps you'll have to learn that the hard way."
Initially I am proud of my newfound rhetorical prowess, but as the week wears on I find my razor-sharp concentration fraying like 1970's shag carpet. Would it hurt? I find myself wondering—rather stupidly, I might add. But considering that corporal punishment is illegal in the schools at home and that my parents gave me little more than the odd wooden-spoon swat here and there, perhaps it's only natural that this "rod of love" looms ever and ever larger in my mind.
I pick up a pencil to start writing, only to twirl it absentmindedly in my hands and compare its thickness and smoothness with The Stick. That's what it has become in my mind, a capital-letter affair. She's stopped being my beloved tutor and has turned into this awful threatening figure. For the moment this fear is very effective in forcing me to work, but much more of this awful fear in the pit of my stomach and I just might develop ulcers. I have, in the most platonic way, a crush on her. I think having to be punished by her would humiliate me beyond recovery. How can I go from being her "star student" to just another unruly student who needed physical punishment to mind? For all of ten seconds I wildly consider leaving the school sans official approval, but the papers are at the bottom of her wastebasket. Placed there by me, with rather obvious symbolism. After my blubbering and sniveling, I threw away the discharge papers without prompting.
I sigh and return to my translation. We've finally moved beyond the Dick-and-Jane of "My name is Jane. This is my brother, Dick" into slightly more exciting fairy tales. "My name is Kongee. This is my stepsister." So far I've gotten poor little Kongee weeding in the field while her mean stepmother gives Kongee's stepsister a new dress. Then the stepmother orders Kongee to fill the water jar, but because of a frog the river overflows.
No, wait a minute. Is "jangee" river or well? And what the heck is this frog doing in the story? I wonder idly if Kongee was struck by her stepmother, or if her nasty older stepsister was ever disciplined for not doing her lessons properly. I picture shrinking-violet Kongee holding out trembling hands as her intimidating stepmother intones, "You must feel the 'rod of love' for your own good." Then, crack! Crack! Crack! Kongee is wringing her poor hands and weeping pathetically until the local handsome magistrate comes to rescue her.
I wonder, guiltily, if my tutor was ever disciplined during her school days. Compared with my stammering and blushing, she's so comfortable with assaulting students with a stick that she can even joke about it.
"Well, Mira, you wanted to fully experience the culture here, so what better opportunity is there than learning how we deal with our students? Did you know that in the old days we used the phrase 'picking up the rod' to mean becoming a teacher? How deprived your education has been!"
Balefully suggesting that I might prefer to remain deprived was only met with affectionate laughter and a squeeze of my shoulders. As if I were a petted and precocious child.
I both resent and enjoy the vulnerability of being a foreigner. I like the freshness and softness it gives me, like being a child again. For my application essay, I described my study abroad experience as a "second childhood" and expressed thankfulness at the new lessons I was learning. I had no idea that entering a second childhood would make me subject to the rules of childhood once again.
The next week, I again enter rather late. Not because I blithely forgot the time but because there was no courteous teacher to usher me into the office. As a result, I stand outside of the office door for a good fifteen minutes while studiously ignoring the curious looks of students passing by.
At long last I reflect that tardiness is probably not the best way to start the lesson off on the right foot, and I make my way over to her desk. I set a small grammar textbook onto her desk and smile expectantly. I had so many questions during our last translation that she mentioned a recently published grammar book for foreigners. I spend so much time at the local bookstore that the manager has jokingly threatened to charge me rent, so I was happy to pick up one copy for myself and one for her.
She opens it and smiles at me delightedly. "Oh good! You were so fast! How much was it?" I tell her the amount, and she opens her purse to hand me the next largest bill. When I search my pockets for change, she pats my hand. "It's all right. It's 'shimboolum gahp,' money for doing an errand. We give it to children," she teases.
Only four years older than I and yet still able to rub it in! I make a face and briefly wonder what it would be like to graduate from all this student stuff and be a professional, a colleague. Finally an adult. I have a hard time imagining it.
We immediately plunge into our work, previously delayed for two weeks in a row. She chuckles at one of my spelling errors.
"It's omgee, not omgway," she corrects me. "Omgee is thumb. Omgway is someone that babies are afraid of. Sometimes a mother will say to her baby, 'omgway will get you!' and the baby will cry and cry." Sort of like my mother's bogeyman, I think, and I marvel at the similarity between cultures.
"Does omgway also 'get' teachers who are too scary to their students?" I can't help asking. She taps her red felt-tip pen playfully in my direction.
"No, but I'm sure they would be interested in a student who calls her teacher 'princess disease.'"
I burst into laughter. Her last name is almost the same as the word for "disease," and here "princess disease" means a girl or woman who is always concerned with looking beautiful. Ever since I learned that, I've addressed every e-mail and note to her as "To princess-disease teacher."
She tries to scowl. "For shame! Don't you know you aren't even supposed to step on your teacher's shadow?"
"Aww!" This is another proverb, one that means a teacher should receive so much respect that even her shadow should be honored. It's her standard weapon whenever I've succeeded in teasing her.
"There's no shadow when we're inside," I complain.
"I can make one," she answers cheerily. She pushes her chair back directly underneath the ceiling light until a very faint shadow forms next to the bottom of her chair. I can't resist. I stomp happily.
Even as she laughs, she wraps her right hand—with such strong fingers!—around mine. "Son day!" she says to me.
I look at her in shock. It's the traditional order for a student to hold out her hands for punishment. Against my will, my hands uncurl themselves and start to tremble.
"P-p-please...I was just joking..."
She smiles at me, so warmly that I can't help trusting her. She lifts her pen and strikes it ever so softly against my outstretched palms. A sudden unexpected gladness fills my heart. If this is a joking matter, I have nothing to fear. Yet again my eyes prick with sudden tears, this time at her amazing and compassionate intuition. She knew I was afraid. That's why she wanted to do this last week.
"It's still me," she says softly. "This doesn't change how I feel about you. Or our work together."
"Th-thank you," I stammer incoherently. In answer, the pen flicks against my palms a second time.
"Don't be afraid," she tells me. "You have no reason to fear. I'm on your side."
For the briefest moment, I wonder if being struck —but it seems too harsh a word—is too small a price to pay for receiving her seemingly limitless love. I'm almost ready to ask her to give it to me. Almost.