This story entirely prompted by seeing half a browser tab out of the corner of my eye.
Her wrists ache for want of chafing. Some kind of sympathetic pain where the ropes once rubbed and restricted. On cold days, like rheumatism or childhood injuries, she feels the ghosts of bindings past, bites her tongue and kneads the bread harder. It’s 4am, and the housewives need their loaves crisp and steaming at 7.15, to make the sandwiches that sustain a tiny village, forever one step from death.
The dough is soft, sinking, unpleasant to touch. The proving trough has splinters though, rough and pleasant against her plump maiden’s forearms. The marks are fading now, and a fresh burn from the oven hides the whitest scars.
She makes the bread, the buns, the cobs, the loaves. She plaits and pulls and wipes sweat from her brow and beneath her blouse and skirt and petticoats she is slick and bare, sweet and tormented. She might conceal a ribbon within her cuff – steal away to a secret place under the guise of relieving herself and expose her tender thigh, the scarlet ribbon crossed about it, showing freckled beneath, bulging, reddening.
Tight she pulls.
Tighter, she pulls.
Tighter, she pulls, and the pain is sharp, but not sharp enough. The needle that pinches, not the blade that slices. She ties the bow beneath her knee and the blood thumps harshly until she is home, unbound and bereft.