Skullface slowly unwraps Devyani’s present. Spontaneously, she feels like incising the tape with a blade, unfolding carefully the Kraft paper (hand-pencilled with black paisley patterns) and saving it, but she doesn’t want Devyani to think she’s tight-assed, so she tears it off – it’s part of the ritual. Part of the ritual also is her face staying impassive while she extracts plum organza and lace, trimmed with purple and ivory embroidering and narrow satin ribbons. The slightest hint of a smile or a breath that could pass for a sigh would tip the scales of the amorous power game at stake.

 Devyani has been struggling – gently and subtly, but still struggling – to have Skullface give up some of her austerity. Not that she is overly stern or dull – on the contrary, her steady mood makes her an agreeable companion, and she can be extremely funny, though she reserves this to a strictly private circle. But she usually leans toward a moderate behaviour, talks only when she has something to say worth breaking the silence, always chooses reading, working or training over partying or hanging out with friends.

 Similarly, she favours plain simple clothes – workwear having her preference –, self-maintains her boyish haircut, and never wears the jewels she brilliantly makes, or any other (though of course a mere glimpse of her face tattoo makes obvious that she once has been wild beyond what most people can conceive).

 Devyani never wanted Skullface to change for her, but she managed to open her to some of her fantasies – actually erotic fantasies (this is what it’s all about). After a period of passionate physical love, mutual discovery and utter tenderness, their foreplays started little by little to include negotiations about the use of some peculiar garments, jewels or gadgets...

 Skullface plays her part with a sheer gravity and Devyani is never sure if there is genuine annoyance or if it is just game, because Skullface always surrenders in the end – though she almost never spontaneously initiates anything (she just has this thing with dildos but it’s another story). This ambiguity is actually enjoyable in itself, and the possible rejection – however unlikely – keeps Devyani’s heart beating with fear and excitement.

 Sometimes the game strays beyond erotic fantasies and enters surrealistic areas – like the day Devyani challenged Skullface to wear the ugliest bunny outfit – white plush long-eared hood, hoses and sleeves on top of a crotchless pink fishnet body stocking, with the inevitable fluffy white tail on top of the buttocks. Skullface had a perfect revenge by subduing without protest, then wearing the costume all day long, parading in front of Devyani torn between shame and arousal. She could do nothing more than close all the curtains of the flat and witness her lover pursuing her day in the most normal manner, even going down to her workshop to pick some tools – it was a Sunday and it was closed, but still with a wide window to the street.

 It took over a month before Devyani dared making Skullface another erotic gift, and she will never erase from her mind the disturbing image of her unsettling face and sharp body debased by this silly attire (and of course the bunny tail is still hanging from the bathroom’s mirror – Skullface’s own sense of humour). The elegant – almost luxurious – piece of French lingerie the woman just unpacked and now holds in front of her with an expressionless face but a slight and encouraging hips movement is probably an enduring consequence of the episode. ‘You could actually wear it in real life’ suggests Devyani, trying hard to sound unconcerned.