Flash Fiction / Nonfiction Contest Winner: Raw Blush by Jaade Wills

Congratulations to Jaade Wills (Mills College, MFA Prose, 2017) for her winning submission to our 2016 Writing Contest:  “Raw Blush.” She has won $100 prize, plus publication in our 18th issue of 580 Split, due out in April 2016.


Raw Blush


If I am but not

If Only

I am

At least, Skin.



He decided that for their first time he would use red hemp rope with natural fibers no thicker than an index finger, because the woman at the Kinky Kat sexshop told him that natural fibers wouldn’t strain against the skin, and would naturally tighten as the model resisted.

“I thought we’d try this position,” he explains with a half grin while pointing to a diagram entitled “The Turtle Bind.” In his New Shibari book, the instructions are accompanied by a tiny illustrated example of what the bind will look like on a cartoon woman. Dana glances at his grin, then at the book, then at his hands, which carry two handfuls of thin red rope. The picture is of a girl in the fetal position, with both knees tight against her breasts, and her arms tied on either side of her legs. The illustrated girl is painted teal blue, and the rope that binds her is white as bone. She studies the picture and is immediately struck with envy towards this drawn kink girl that is able to bring her knees as high as her collarbone without strain, while still appearing to preserve a keen seduction in the process. Immediately she states the first thing that would make the picture girl seem less appealing. “She looks like an egg,”an declares Dana. “Isn’t the idea that we are able to have sex after the tying?”


He explains to her of the hurt it wouldn’t cause to simply try getting into the position, and if they exhaust their efforts that they would just try a simpler bind. Immediately, her first thought is to perform at an unsatisfactory level so he would give up on this ambitious task, and point to an image like the one on page two: “The Plank Bind.” Dana likes the plank bind because it only requires her to be awake, lie like a stiff wooden plank atop a flowing river, while he binds her ankles together, and seams her wrist with rope above her head.

She practices her finest turtle position on the maple hardwood, noticeably struggling to keep her knees at the same height, all the while keeping a steady influx of air in her lungs. She glares up at him as if to say, “See, this isn’t going to work.” Her roundness rolls on the floor as a ripened plum rolls from its sanctioned branch, taking a leaf or two with it as a souvenir to its new life. So too were her soft curves wheeling away from him, taking the end of his rope with her in the process. Instead of the response she is hoping for, where he would have flipped a few pages to land on the plank, which is home and refuge, he politely asks her to try it again.

Dana starts getting into position by lying on her back atop the padded yoga mat on the floor, wondering if she has ever used the mat for anything other than their sexual explorations before. She confirms that she hasn’t. Her breaths are heavy and deep as she motions both legs into a cradled position, her knees pressing against her D cups, her feet parallel to the floor. Earlier this evening, he positioned the wardrobe mirror that once hung against his closet door on the living room floor next to the mat, so they could both watch while he tied her. Lying on its side, the mirror provides a horizontal floor view of the binding in question.

Dana can’t seem to take her eyes off her nakedness and the contrast that the redness of the rope makes against both her fair complexion and her silvery stretch marks, which trail along each side of her upper thighs. She has never seen this angle of herself nude before, and remains unclear of her assessment of it.

Having only gotten to the right knee, the bind holds her right side hostage in a bent position, while the left leg flails on the floor. Dana feels the need to resist her reflected gaze, but can’t help but stare at her body and the stressed indentations where the rope meets her soft skin, and the meat which hugs around it in embrace. She feels in this moment like a roast dressed in macramé, tied with butcher knots into a compressed ball before entering the heat of a broiler.

With the excess rope wrapped around his wrist, he weaves the remaining parts beneath the free leg, bends it at the knee, places her arm against it, and pulls the ends to form a firm knot. Once more, Dana’s eyes carefully follow the rope that coils around her, and she is taken aback when the words that hadn’t penetrated her mind in years, her grandmother’s words, appear at the forefront of her subconscious.

You serve no one when you serve only yourself, echoes in her ears as he twirls the bits of rope remaining into a loop, tucking it neatly away behind her right wrist. With the knot rubbing against her veins, she can feel the individual pulses of her heartbeat, and its quickening pace, with the bind finally complete.

He leans in, hoping to kiss her, take her away from her distracted gaze in the mirror, and envelop her mouth into his. Dana motions her head sideward for a moment’s breath and a polite request, “Would you please flip the switch to the ceiling light off?”

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