Well, as it turns out, I am not so good at editing things myself. It feels like I have to leave a story, unread, for at least a month (though it ends up being three.. four?) before I can come back, read it with fresh eyes, and begin to edit. Then, once I've edited the hell out of it (because I'm easily my own worst critic), I have to leave it alone AGAIN... and re-edit. Wash, rinse, repeat. This, not even taking into account how long it takes me to even get a story on the page.
So, everything takes ages around here. And, usually, like now, I just end up giving up. Because the truth is? I'm a perfectionist to the nth degree and it's just gotten out of hand.
And it's still imperfect, but I'm coming to terms with that. Maybe if I ever really did come to terms with it, I'd be able to publish stories at a more reasonable rate.
Oh, well, that leads down a whole 'nother rabbit trail of perfectionism if I let it.
So, here it is already, in all it's imperfection. :)
I was in the garden with Judah when Charlie came out, holding the phone. I watched him from under the brim of my hat as he moved across the lawn toward us. How does confidence just bleed out of him like that? And why doesn’t it transfer by osmosis?
He looked, as usual, ready to take on the world.
I was still mad at him, though, and tried to ignore the way his jeans hung on his hips and his skin shone in the sun--
“You being good?” he asked me, eyes sparkling.
I looked down and nodded, pretending I hadn’t been watching him.
We hadn’t spoken for much of the morning. I guess I was afraid of saying something that would get me into trouble.
He smiled at me. “Mrs. Berry,” he said, holding the phone out to Judah at arm’s length.
“Something about her concord grapes and do you want them?” He raised a hand to shield his eyes, squinting against the bright sun.
Judah looked up from under the brim of his hat. “Oh, right. I asked her about that.” He stood and briskly dusted himself off.
“And something about her apricot tree?” Charlie shook his head. “Is she ancient? I can hardly understand a word she says.”
“Be nice,” Judah said, stepping out of the garden and kissing Charlie’s cheek.
“I’m just sayin’,” Charlie handed him the phone and Judah covered the receiver with his hand.
“Stay with Daddy,” Judah said to me.
I grimaced, taking my hat off to swipe my arm across my forehead.
“And keep that hat on,” he said, turning toward the house. “Charlie, make sure she keeps the hat on if she’s in the sun. Hello, Mrs. Berry? I am doing just fine. How’s your hip?”
“Hat on. Got it,” Charlie said. He came down to the edge of the garden where I was hunched over, weeding, and crouched down on the grass. “Whatcha doin’?” He reached in, putting my hat back on my head.
“It’s too hot for that,” I said, making a face.
“I know. Sorry,” he shrugged. “Keep it on. Whatcha doin’?”
“Nothin’.” I didn’t look at him. I knew he felt bad about the night before and a good part of me was fine with that.
“Come talk to me.”
I looked up. “Why?”
He smirked. “Come here. Don’t make me say it again.” He sat down and nodded at the grass beside him.
I sighed and rolled my eyes, getting up and plopping where he pointed.
“And lose the attitude,” he said, lightly. “How’s the garden doing?”
“That’s why you came out?” I grumbled. “To ask me about the garden?” I glared at the grass.
“No, I came out here to tell Judah he had a phone call.” He got to his feet and pulled me up with him.
“I’m sorry!” I said as he drew me up, but he swatted me anyway. Hard enough to make my hat fall off.
“I told you to lose the attitude, didn’t I?” he asked, firmly.
He looked down at me, his lips pressed together, but his eyes soft. “Now, I want to talk to you. Do I need to discipline you beforehand or can we just have a civil conversation?”
“We can have a civil conversation,” I said.
“Good, then sit down.” This time, he pulled me between his legs, replacing my hat.
“That hurt,” I said softly.
“I know,” he said, unmoved. “Now, what happened last night?”
“I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“I don’t care if you want to talk about it.”
I slumped back against him. “I’m mad at you.”
“So I gathered. Tell me what happened.”
“You spanked me,” I mumbled, intending to leave it at that, but all the frustration I’d been feeling welled up in my chest and gurgled out. “For no reason! You didn’t tell me before you did it, you wouldn’t even talk to me, you just did it and it was horrible and then you didn’t hold me and I won’t be nice to you about it because you weren’t nice to me and I hate you!” It came out in a rush.
Charlie, a little startled, rubbed his hair, and thought for a long moment. He finally sighed. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice sincere.
I scowled in response, but he continued, slowly.
“You were upset and then I got upset and I-- I just wanted to get it over with, but that wasn’t the way to do it. Really, Olive, I’m sorry.”
He waited for a response, which I didn’t give him.
“Nothing?” he said.
I stared at the grass.
“Look, this isn’t easy for me either.”
“Yeah, it must be a real bummer for you,” I said.
“Olivia,” he growled, hauling me up again and smacking my bottom twice.
“Well, I’m mad!” I said, defensively and stamped my foot. “You-- you took the situation I have to trust you most about and then you did it wrong! I think I get to be mad about that.”
“You don’t get to be sassy and sarcastic,” he said and pulled me back to the grass with him.
“But I get to be mad,” I said.
We were quiet for a while. He laced his fingers in and out of mine, running his thumbs over the backs of my hands.
“You’re going to do it again, aren’t you?” I asked him.
He was silent.
“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think you needed it,” he began, quietly.
“So I’m getting it no matter what I say,” I said, bitterly. “What a partnership.”
He cuffed the back of my head. “Olive, I am too old and tired to keep hauling you up to smack your bottom,” Charlie said. “Straighten up, or I’ll do it right the next time and then I’ll put you to bed without supper. And don’t interrupt me.”
“Sorry,” I said, sullen.
“It’s not like I meant for it to turn out that way,” he said.
Yeah, I’ve tried that one a thousand times before and it never made a difference then.
“You need this,” he said. “I did it wrong and I’m very sorry about that, but--,” he sighed. “I think this could do you a lot of good.” He covered my mouth with his hand when I tried to interrupt him a second time. “Listen, I know you remember our last experience with bedtime spankings badly. And you may hate this time just as much, I can’t make any guarantees, but it will be different.”
“How?” I demanded, muffled by his hand. He didn’t move it.
“You’re older,” he said. “We have more experience together. I mean, it’s been almost four years since the last time we did this. I feel like both of us -- all of us -- are more comfortable in our own skin, more stable in this relationship, and we can make this work.”
He uncovered my mouth, slowly, eyeing me.
Tears welled in my eyes, half angry, half panicked. He was really going to insist on doing this to me. I think, up until that point, I honestly believed I could guilt him into changing his mind.
He wrapped both arms around me, tightly, and it was uncomfortable, in the heat, to be so close, but something about being physically surrounded by another person.. it helps sometimes.
“Just give me a little bit of grace here, will you?” he spoke into the top of my head. “I’m trying to figure this thing out, too.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to do it before you just-- just did it?” I asked, my throat tight.
“Because I know you. I knew how much you were going to hate it and, I don’t know, it seemed like the better option was to just get it done with as little fanfare as possible. I’m sorry. I’ll never do it that way again.”
“But you said you wouldn’t do it again at all!” I was beginning to feel as panicked as I had the night before.
“No, darlin’, I didn’t,” Charlie said, calmly. “Come here. You’re about to give yourself heat stroke, getting all worked up like this.” He thumbed tears off my cheeks and looked at me sympathetically. “Where’s your water?”
I pointed at my water bottle, perched on the tree stump a few feet away. He grabbed it and then towed me behind him to the shade of the maple tree.
“Go on, sit,” he pointed at the ground and pulled the hat off my head. Underneath, my hair was sweaty, strands clinging to my temples and the nape of my neck. “Now, drink this.” He handed me my water bottle and crouched in front of me to wipe the tears off my cheeks with his hands. “And stop crying.”
“I’m not thirsty.”
He uncapped the bottle and put it in my hand with a look that said I would do as I was told if I knew what was good for me.
So, I drank and tried to stop crying.
Charlie lay down next to me, stretching his long legs out and covering his eyes with his arm.
“You look half dead,” he said
“It’s the hat,” I sniffled. “It makes me hot. I hate it.”
He chuckled and put a hand just under my shirt to rub. “Don’t complain,” he said.
“Shouldn’t I know what I need?” I asked, picking at blades of grass and trying not to cry.
He looked at me from under his arm. “I don’t know, should you?”
I glared at him.
“When it comes to matters of discipline,” he said, still looking at me. “I’m willing to hear input, but you’re usually a little biased.”
“But I don’t want it,” I said, forcefully. I tried to smack his arm for emphasis, but he caught it. “I don’t want you to do it.” I lowered my voice. “Shouldn’t that count for something?”
“It counts, Olivia,” Charlie said. “And if you’re hoping to make Daddy as unhappy as you are, then congratulations, but I still think you need this. Judah and I still think you need this. We made that decision. So, it’s not a question of need anymore, now it’s a question of trust. Are you willing to trust us with this?” He looked over at me. “Are you?”
How was I supposed to answer that? What is the right answer anyway?
I’d never hated a decision they’d made as much as I hated this one and I’d never felt less involved in the process. I was usually at least consulted on these sorts of matters, allowed to give my input, and I almost always agreed their decision was fair in the end. The fact that this time was different felt confusing and frustrating.
“Listen to me,” Charlie propped himself up on one arm and looked at me. “This is discipline, not punishment. You know the distinction. This is about you being brought into check every day, not about me beating you for what you’ve done.”
“But it feels like punishment.”
“But it’s not punishment.”
“But it feels like it.”
“But it’s not.”
“Every night?” I looked away.
“Don’t do that. Look at me.” He sat up and turned my head back toward him.
“Every night?” I asked, watching his mouth so I didn’t have to look into his eyes.
“I need you to give it a chance. You can do that.”
“What if I can’t?” I watched his lips, pink and soft. I liked those lips.
“You can,” he said.
I shook my head, turning away again.
“Hey, I said don’t do that.” He touched my knee. “Look back here.”
My eyes trailed back to his mouth and I swallowed, my own mouth dry.
“You honestly don’t believe me?” Charlie said and I heard the twinge of hurt in his voice. “Tell me you don’t think this is the right thing to do, Olivia, because I absolutely do. Do you think I would have held you there last night if I didn’t? Because I think we can both agree that was pretty awful.”
“Then why did you do it?”
“Tell me you think this is the wrong thing to do,” he said again. “Tell me.”
But I couldn’t.
I didn’t want it. I didn’t like it, I hated it. I was angry with him and scared to turn over my last vestige of control. In the back of my mind, irrational fear whispered that I would’ve have been better off never having fallen for him. For him or Judah, or Alex. But I still couldn’t say it was the wrong decision.
Charlie took a long, deep breath. “If you safe word me on this, I’ll stop. You know I will.”
It’s mostly for play. I had never wanted a safe word for discipline. And, for the record, it was Charlie’s idea, not mine. He absolutely insisted Alex and I each choose one. We can only use them during play, or before an actual punishment spanking starts. And even then, I’ll bet chances are you’ll get the spanking anyhow.
This was the sort of situation that might merit safe wording, I guess. I’ve never used mine in punishment before. Probably because anybody with half a brain could tell you that you’d better have something pretty compelling to say, and I’m not sure I ever have the wits about me to summon that much eloquence. If a person were to safe word only to have Charlie or Jude find out there was no good reason, well.. I feel safer not knowing what would happen in that instance.
“I’m not going to safe word,” I snapped. “It’s not.. like that. It would be a stupid thing to safe word over.”
“It’s not like what?”
“It’s not like I need a safe word anyhow.”
“No, we’re not going into that. It’s not like what, Olivia?”
“It’s not like the kind of situation a person should safe word out of,” I said, sullenly, picking single blades of grass to twirl between my fingers.
“It is if you’re as unhappy as you’re acting.”
“It’s a stupid thing to safe word over,” I repeated, slower. “Anyway, I’m saving it for a rainy day.”
“You know you can use it more than once.. right? It’s not like a coupon?” He cocked a sarcastic eyebrow at me and I smacked him, half heartedly.
“It’s mine and I can use it how I want. I’m upset about this because... because it doesn’t feel fair. I already got spanked and the deal around here is you get spanked and forgiven and, you know, right? So, I mean... I get why I’m grounded and I get that the affect my behavior has on everybody else doesn’t just go away, but it’s hard not to equate bedtime spanking with punishment.” I sighed, heavily.
“Look,” Charlie said and he tilted my chin up to look him in the eye. His eyes were warm and gentle as he held my gaze. “If it really doesn’t work for you, we’ll see where to go from there. But at this point, we haven’t given it a chance. I didn’t do it right last night and I know I was the big, mean Daddy who made you cry yourself to sleep.” He took my hand in his, lacing his fingers through mine. “I’m sorry. It’s not going to be like that. During any sort of spanking, ever again.”
“Yes, sir,” I said, feeling both calmer, and somewhat defeated, although not in an altogether bad sort of way.
We were quiet a long time. I watched a lady bug climb a dandelion and tried to pick it up and put it off onto Charlie’s nose while his eyes were closed, but then Alex and Spencer were crashing down the driveway from their four hour bike ride and Charlie sat up, took one look at me and the ladybug and shook it off my hand with a smirk.
“‘Ey!” he shouted, getting up as the boys started tumbling inside. “Pick your bikes up, put them away, and hang up your helmets.” He snapped his fingers and pointed back toward the garage.
Charlie walked to them, lifting their helmets off, one in each hand and handing them back.
They went back and Charlie came to sit under the tree again, shaking his head.
“You love them,” I said, picking dry mud off my fingernails.
“Love only gets them so far,” he said.
I waited until they’d gone inside and then glanced at Charlie. “So, we’re gonna do it?” I asked, no happier, but less angry.
He just looked at me and nodded.
“I hope I don’t have to like it,” I said, quietly.
“I don’t think you’re going to hate it as much as you think you will.”
“Don’t offer me that challenge.”
He chuckled. “I really wouldn’t have done that last night if I hadn’t thought it was the best thing I could do for you,” Charlie said, quietly, reaching out to slide a smooth hand under my shirt. He rubbed gently. “And I’m sorry it didn’t turn out like I meant it to and that I didn’t tell you beforehand or hold you afterward, because I should have.”
“Well, that’s not an appropriate response.”
“It’s okay,” I sighed.
“No, it’s not. And I really am sorry, Olive.”
“I know. Really. Whatever.”
“I hate that word. Keep it up and I’m going to start soaping you for it.”
“I like it,” I smirked.
“Only because you know I don’t.”
“You’re rotten.” The hand that had been rubbing, jabbed me in the ribs and I squealed and rolled away.
“Stop torturing the baby,” Judah called from the back porch, coming down the steps with three glasses of iced tea.
“I am NOT the baby!” I announced, loudly, as Charlie drug me back to him, laughing.
“You’re the youngest,” Charlie shrugged. “Sorry. That makes you the baby.”
Judah was grinning at us. “Are we friends again?” he asked, looking between us.
“I’m still not happy,” I said, settling between Charlie’s legs with the iced tea Judah handed me.
“Well, we can’t all be happy all of the time. In all the ways that count, you look perfectly fine to me.” Judah sat down next to us and put a big hand on my knee.
“Why do I need spanked at bedtime?” I asked, glancing over at him.
“Mmm,” he swallowed his iced tea and thought for a moment. “Because you get lost and then you lose focus and-- and I think they’ll really settle you, Olive. I honestly do. You don’t?”
“I don’t like it.”
Judah smiled, softly and rubbed my knee. “I know you don’t. Does it help that we’re 100% in agreement on this? Because you know how often that happens.”
I sighed. “Is it going to hurt?” I asked.
Charlie brushed the sweaty hair off my forehead. “It’s not a punishment spanking. I told you that. It’s primary purpose isn’t to deter you from misbehaving, so it’s not like I’m going to be spanking the living tar out of you every night. Christ, you really think I’m a horrible person, don’t you?”
“It’s not going to hurt?” I looked at him.
“I didn’t say that.”
Judah cut in. “You know what a spanking does for you. It centers you, it brings the important things into focus, blocks out distractions, doesn’t it?” He waited for me to nod, which I did, if non-committally, before continuing. “That’s where we need you. And that’s what we think this is going to do for you.”
“So, it is going to hurt.” I said.
“Oh, God,” Charlie groaned. “I’m about to spank you now. This is an organic process, Olivia.
Nobody can tell you anything about hurt versus not hurt because we just don’t know. So, there’s no way I’m going to promise you anything one way or the other. All I can tell you is that its primary purpose isn’t to hurt. Take that however you want.”
“You know all this, Olive,” Judah said.
“I know, I just...”
“You just need to let it go,” he said. “We’ll pick up where you leave off. We’ve got it.”
He said it with so much ease, like it was a physical object to be picked up and dropped at will.
Dinner was as jovial as ever. Judah had made beef stew and there were thick slabs of whole grain bread, still hot from the oven, and slathered in butter. Judah told Charlie, again, that he wanted a milk cow, and - again - Charlie laughed him off.
“A milk cow?” he scoffed. “We already have a milk cow down at the corner store. It’s called a refrigeration unit and it doesn’t require constant attention on our part.”
Judah gave him a withering Look. “You wouldn’t say that if you’d ever tasted fresh milk. The store bought stuff doesn’t half compare.”
“I’ll bet you’ll be saying that when we’re all dying of Brucellosis and Listeria,” Charlie said, taking a piece of bread.
Judah rolled his eyes. “People have been drinking unpasteurized milk for thousands of years. If it were really so dangerous, cows would have died out. What do you think calves drink? Are they not susceptible to food borne illness? I am not having this debate with you again, Mr.
Ellis. I’ll pasteurize your milk if you want me to.”
“And theirs?” Charlie nodded at Alex and I.
“I want it plain,” I said.
“Me too,” Alex said through a mouthful of bread.
“Well, good thing I didn’t ask you,” Charlie said. “And Alexander, don’t talk with your mouth
full.” He turned back to Judah. “Where would we put this milk cow?”
“I’ll build it a place,” Alex said, still chewing.
“I said, don’t talk with your mouth full,” Charlie repeated.
Alex swallowed, quickly. “I’ll build it a place. In the barn. Spencer’ll help me.”
They both ignored him.
“Mrs. Berry’s cousin is selling her cow,” Judah said. “It’s a Jersey, and it’s at a reduced price. I don’t need your permission, Charlie Ellis, I just wanted you to be okay with it.”
“Oh, fine,” Charlie sighed. “I’m okay with it. But I don’t want to have to feed the damn thing and so help me, Judah Bartlett, if anybody gets sick, I’ll shoot it between the eyes.”
Judah rolled his eyes and sighed. “You are the most dramatic--”
“Is it going to stink?” Charlie interrupted, as though the thought had just dawned on him.
“Of course it isn’t going to stink. Not where you’ll be, anyway. You’re a sissy, you know that?” Judah smiled and shook his head.
“Hell, yes, I am. And proud of it.”
At exactly 8:00, Charlie put his book down and gently slid a dozing Alex from his lap.
“Bedtime, Olive,” he said, stretching as he stood.
I swallowed and looked over the top of my book at him, anxiously.
He smiled, warmly, and came to me, taking the book out of my hands. “Keeping a Family Cow,” he read off the cover and groaned. “Not you, too. Where’d this book come from?”
I couldn’t help but grin at the look on his face, despite the lead weight in my stomach.
“He’s indoctrinated both of you, hasn’t he?” he looked from me to Alex and back. Alex had settled sleepily back into the chair they’d been sharing. I shrugged.
“I’ve done no such thing!” Judah said, coming in from the kitchen, drying his hands on the towel over his shoulder. “Whatever’s happening in here is nothing I set in motion.”
“You puppet master,” Charlie grinned at Judah.
“I didn’t do anything!” Judah said again.
“Oh, I know you didn’t. All you have to do is say you want something and everybody else just jumps on board to get it for you.” He went and kissed Jude on the chin. “I think it means they like you. I’m not sure why..”
Judah snapped his towel on Charlie’s thigh, and Charlie yelped and laughed.
“Come on, Olive, before Jude wakes up the whole neighborhood.” He held out his hand to me.
“Daddy..” I said, quietly.
“Come on,” he said again, his tone still light and cheerful. “You’re fine.” He gave me a smile and I went to him.
“Goodnight,” Judah said, kissing and hugging me hard. “I love you. You know you’ll be fine,” he whispered into my ear.
“Goodnight,” Alex said from his chair, eyes closed.
I trailed after Charlie up the stairs where he surprised me by taking me through the same routine as the night before.
In the bathtub, he talked to me quietly, reassuring and stroking bare skin. He told me more stories from the office and made me laugh. When we were clean, he dried me himself and led me into the bedroom.
“You ate a lot better today,” he said, pulling a tank top over my head. “You were damn good today, in fact, weren’t you?”
In situations like this, when you know you’re about to get spanked, the tendency to pull away is so strong, it becomes almost unconscious.
It was all I could do to stand in front of him, even just so he could dress me, without backing away to the other side of the room.
“No, come here,” he said, tugging me back to him as I drifted away again. “Will you stop doing that?”
“I’m sorry,” I said, looking down at the floor.
“If I stand you in front of me, it’s because I want you standing in front of me,” he said, firmly. “Don’t wander off as soon as I let go of you.”
“But it’s hard--”
“I know that. Come here.” He tried to pull me into his lap and I resisted.
“No, Daddy, please..”
He sighed. “I have patience, Olivia, but--”
“No, you don’t,” I said, flatly.
“Well, I don’t have very much, but what I do have is being worn thin. I know this isn’t pleasant, but it is what it is and we just need to get it over with.”
“Ohh, please don’t?” I begged, shamelessly.
“Come here,” he said. “I mean it. Come here.” He patted his lap and waited until I came, hesitantly, to sit.
“Do you remember what I said to you earlier?”
“This time is different. It’s different than last night and it’s different than four years ago. Stop that,” he brushed my fingers from my mouth, where I was biting at my nails. “In a minute, I’ll put you over my knees--”
“Yes,” he said, calmly. “And you’ll tell me how your day was.”
“From-- from there? While I’m-- there?”
He held me tightly and just kept talking. “You can decide how forthcoming to be and I will respond accordingly.” He slid a hand under one hip to my bottom.
Because that wasn’t at all ominous..
“It won’t be terrible. I want to talk to you and I want you bare and uncomfortable and willing to talk to me.”
Well, nothing like honesty. Isn’t that called torture in most countries?
He held me for a few more minutes before sliding me to the floor. “All right. No hyperventilating and no giant Daddy guilt tripping tonight, mm?”
I pulled away, instinctively, as my feet touched down and he caught me by the arm and stood up. Stabilising me with one hand, he spanked me hard with the other.
“Don’t-- Ow, don’t!” I whined.
He pulled my tank top up out of the way and swatted me several times more before pulling me firmly to him and looking me in the eyes.
“I’m not angry with you,” he said. “But I do expect to be obeyed. I know you’re scared and you don’t want this, but I told you not to wander off as soon as I let go of you. Didn’t I, Olivia?”
“Oh, yes, and I’m sorry,” I spluttered, tears already in my eyes.
“No more trying to skirt around me. It’s going to happen no matter what you do anyhow, so you may as well be good. Come here.”
He sat down hard on the bed and before I could speak, much less pull away again, I was bottom up over his knees. I wriggled, struggling to keep my balance.
“Hold still,” he said, smacking me again. “You know I won’t let you fall.”
I hissed and tried to hold still.
He sighed, running a hand over my bottom. “Mmm. You’ve got a couple bruises,” he said, looking closely to assess the damage done the day before. “Are you sore?”
“I am now,” I said, not meaning to be sassy.
“Well, I know you are now.” I could hear the smirk in his voice. “Are you still sore from yesterday?”
“Of course,” I said, dumbly. “You paddled me.”
“Well, it’s not that bad. How was helping Judah in the garden?”
“It was fine,” I said, sniffling.
His hand remained present on my upturned bottom and he patted firmly.
“How have you been feeling about staying within ten feet of Judah and I?” he asked.
“I don’t like it?” I said.
“And?” he prompted.
“It’s-- hard,” I said, slowly. “It-- I sometimes just accidentally forget.”
“Like yesterday, I tried to put away the hose in the garden, and I went too far and Judah spanked me -- right there in the garden where everybody could see!”
“Who was watching?”
“Nobody, but they could’ve.”
“And today when you walked away from me to go get Alex..” I said, pouting.
“You’re meant to follow me, aren’t you?” Charlie asked. “If you see me going, you’re to hop up and follow me. I’d told you that before.”
“But you walked away and I got spanked. In front of Spencer and Alex.”
“First of all, I can’t count the number of times you’ve been spanked in front of Alex, not to mention how many you’ve been spanked with him, and second, it’s certainly not the first time you’ve been swatted in front of Spencer either.”
“You’re getting the hang of it,” he said, gently. “Pay closer attention and things like that won’t happen.”
“But it’s hard,” I said.
“Well, nobody ever said it would be easy.”
“What’ve you been thinking about the past few days?”
“I don’t know.” I shrugged and got smacked once.
“Sorry,” I said, quickly. “I-- I guess I’ve been thinking about.. about school and being punished here and I’m stupid for doing it--”
He spanked me sharply, at least four times.
“Oww,” I whined, squirming.
“Okay, I don’t mean stupid,” I corrected, a little breathlessly. “I just mean.. I shouldn’t have skipped so much school. I feel stupid for doing it and I feel like Alex thinks I’m stupid for doing it and-- and I’ve been thinking about how I got here and that it’s not just me that I got here...” I trailed off.
“Mmm,” Charlie rubbed a hand up my back. “You’re right. This doesn’t just affect you, does it?”
Somehow, once I was actually over his knee instead of just worrying about being over his knee, like I had been all day, I felt calmer. Much less articulate, but calmer.
“No, sir,” I said.
“Well, what I want you to focus on tomorrow is properly following the ten foot rule. If I move, or Judah moves, you’re to follow us, quickly. And you’re not to move further than ten feet yourself.
“I watched you in the garden with Jude this afternoon and I caught you trailing away from him more than once. You just managed to realize what had happened and get back before he noticed. Isn’t that right?”
I swallowed, having had no idea he’d been watching.
“I didn’t mean to--”
“I know you didn’t. But in the future, those are the sorts of things I want to hear about here. Accidents, things that were hard for you, things you’re having to struggle to do. Even if it’s just staying within your physical limits.”
“Yes, sir,” I said, quietly. “But will you spank me for the things I tell you?”
“It’s not your job to think about that. You think about what I need to know and I’ll think about the spanking.”
“But that’s hard...”
“You live a hard life,” he said. “Anything else?”
“Why won’t Alex talk to me?”
Charlie sighed and his hand stroked up my back for a moment as he thought. “You know, for all that boy’s grouchy, snarky behavior, he’s about the most fragile, isn’t he? Especially when it comes to you.” He thought some more and I wriggled a little to get comfortable, although I was held in place pretty firmly by Charlie’s arm still over my back. “I think he’s upset that he knew all along and never said anything--”
“But that wasn’t his job!”
“Well, I know that and you know that, but you know how he gets. He’s a hard egg to crack, Olivia. And normally, I’d send the two of you off on a bike ride to figure it out.”
“That’s what usually fixes it,” I said, half into my arms.
“But you’re stuck here, aren’t you? So, I don’t know yet what to do about our grumpy boy, but his attitude isn’t your fault and Judah and I are both working with him, keeping him under our thumbs. You need to try not to focus too much on that for the time being. I know he’s mad, but there’s nothing you can do about it, is there?”
“No,” I sighed.
“So, we’re all doing the best we can and it’s gonna be okay, hm?”
“All right.” He pulled me close to his stomach with one arm, positioning me carefully while I tried not to wriggle, and started spanking.
It was harder than the night before and longer, and while it did leave me in tears, it wasn’t so much from the pain as from simple exhaustion and frustration. All the emotion of the past three days jumbled up and spilled out.
“Please-- oww, Daddy! I’ll be good,” I whimpered.
“I know,” he said, sympathetically. “Stop fighting me so hard and let go a little.” He repositioned me for about the hundredth time and resumed the spanking.
As soon as he finished, he slid me to my feet and pulled back the covers of the bed. I balked at first, assuming he was trying to put me to bed again like the night before, and pulled away.
“Get back here,” he said, sharply, swatting me again and sending me into a fresh volley of tears. He took my chin in his hand and looked me in the eye, speaking very firmly and clearly through my tears, “I said don’t pull away from me. I meant it. Don’t make me spank you again.”
I nodded and spluttered a, “yes, sir,” that was probably unrecognizable.
Then he put me in bed, not bothering with my pants, and crawled across to lay next to me on top of the covers.
“All right. Now, come here, you,” he said, gently, taking hold of me and pulling until I was nearly on top of him. “You were a good girl today. Shh. Did I really spank you that hard?”
I nodded my head and he laughed. “No, I didn’t, did I?” He ran his fingers through my hair. “Did I?”
This time, I shook my head, hesitantly.
He squeezed me hard and kissed my hair. “No, I didn’t,” he said. “You’re just unhappy, aren’t you?”
“I’m not mad.” He rubbed my back and sighed. “I’m not mad and you know it. Besides, you spent all morning trying to make me mad, so I’m not convinced that’s why you’re upset. I think you’re afraid I’m disappointed.”
It’s so cliche when he says it like that.
“Don’t say it...” I cried into his shirt.
“I will say it. I’m disappointed,” he said it almost sadly, and I could have sworn my heart would break in two. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you do something so silly as miss this much class,” he continued, rubbing slow circles into my back. “But, you know, I love you so much. Do you know I love you so much?”
I shook my head.
“I love you so much,” he whispered. “So, in a way, I don’t guess it would matter how much you disappointed me. Not that you should make a habit of it. And we’re taking care of it, aren’t we?”
I didn’t respond, still crying.
“I asked you last night why you needed to hurt yourself by dropping out of school. Do you remember?”
“I didn’t drop out,” I hiccuped.
He put a finger over my sticky lips. “Do you remember?” he asked.
“Because you never answered me and it makes me wonder if you have an answer.”
I didn’t answer him then either, wholly preferring to sink into his chest and keep crying.
“You’re holding back on me, Olivia,” Charlie said, ever so quietly. “And I don’t know what about, but I know you’re holding back. What are we going to do with you?”
Why did he have to ask so many questions?
“Mmm,” he said.
“Mmm,” I said back.
“Damn. Did you brush your teeth?” he asked.
No, I didn’t. You’ve been hovering over me all day. You think you would’ve missed me brushing my teeth?
I didn’t say it.
“N-no, sir,” I said, shakily.
“Let’s go brush your teeth.”
He washed my face and hands again, brushed my still wet hair, and stood over me while I brushed my teeth. Spankings make can you sleepy and being hovered over makes you feel just about right if you let it. I leaned into him, clingy, half naked and barely noticing, until he led me back to bed.
“Lay down with me,” I begged, as he turned the covers over me and I sank, face first, into my pillow.
“And why would I do that?” he smiled, leaning over me to look into my eyes.
“Because. You know why. Please?”
“Of course I’m going to lay down with you.” He brushed his nose against mine in an eskimo kiss. “But it’s bedtime.”
As soon as he was on the bed, I was pressing myself against his thigh and breathing the smell of his weekend jeans and T-shirt. Somehow, I didn’t hate him nearly as much as I’d thought I would. Somehow, I didn’t hate him at all, and in fact, I felt the best I had in three days as I commandeered his arm and wrapped it around me.
“I love you,” I mumbled.
“I know. I love you, too. Be quiet.” His hand went to my hair, absently combing through it.
“Can I drink the milk raw?” I asked, sleepily, suddenly remembering our cow. The one I fully intended to become quite attached to and love as a wonderful pet, not a boring old farm animal.
“I said be quiet.”
“I know, but what can we name the cow?” I yawned. “Not a regular cow name, okay? What about Ginger? Or Molly? Is that too cow-y?” I tried to get up on my elbows and he put a firm hand on my back.
“Or Coco?” I asked, much quieter. “Maggie’s too cow-y, I think, but I like it. What about--”
“I’ll spank you,” he said, not looking up from his book and obviously trying not to laugh.
I was quiet a moment longer before whispering, “What about Alice, Daddy?”
“I will spank you and it won’t be nice,” he said.
“Oh, Daddy, can’t I talk to you for just a minute?”
He sat up, pulled the covers back and caught my hand before I could protect myself.
“I said be quiet,” he said, slowly, and I winced as he swatted me four times, stopped to look me in the eyes and then swatted me twice more as he held my gaze.
“Yes, sir,” I whispered, as contritely as I could.
He smirked and shook his head, throwing the covers back over me and leaning against the headboard. “Close your eyes.”
I closed them, obediently.
I tried and felt myself sink deeper into the bed.
Next to me, Charlie moved and I could feel that he was reaching for something. I heard books flopping and being stacked and restacked. He keeps a constant pile of books by his bed that makes Judah fairly cringe with irritation. But it doesn’t matter how often Jude puts them all back on the shelf. They always end up right back on Charlie’s side of the bed.
I didn’t dare open my eyes as he started to read.
“Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow.”
He trailed his hand up and down my back, comfortingly. “Fringed with alders and ladies'
eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place...”
Somehow, I wasn’t angry. Because, somehow, I didn’t think it could get any better than this. Not any better at all, even a tiny little bit. No, I thought, this is just as good as it gets, right here, sore bottom and all.