After a few months of long-distance courtship, Megan moved back to the midwest.
“Dad needs more help,” she said.
“You want to be near Max,” her sister Morgan replied.
Megan liked big-name country music concerts. She wore a small gold cross from her confirmation over modest silk tops from TJ Maxx. She brought her dog when she visited Morgan after church, and she bought a Camry because it was big enough for a black Lab and, well, they’re reliable.
Max thought the name thing was funny. “Are you twins?”
“Yes, but she’s not like me at all.”
“What’s she like?”
“She’s not like me, that’s all.”
“You wouldn’t like her.”
When Megan was like this, Max would raise an eyebrow. “Megan?” And that was usually enough.
“Was I doing it again?”
She would stroke his chest or kiss his forehead. “I’m sorry, Max.”
When Max proposed on Christmas Eve, Megan called him a dear man. He assumed that meant “No”.
“Of course not, Max. But I’m 39, and I’m used to my life the way it is.” She asked for a week to think things over.
“I don’t want to be another statistic.” She’d seen what Morgan was going through, and besides “…this is a solemn oath before God, Max. I wouldn’t just be wearing your fraternity pin.”
And so, after a dozen New Year’s Eve oysters and a three flutes of Taittinger, Megan was the one who suggested a traditional ceremony and a very traditional husband-wife relationship.
“None of that silly stuff Dave and Morgan did on the beach. I want a Catholic church with an organist and stained glass windows. And the vows my parents took: you to cherish me, I to obey you. You’ll wear a tux?”
“I’ll look like the butler. ‘Do you, Jeeves, take this woman…”
“No you won’t. You’ll look handsome. The lord of the manor.”
“It’s a split-level.”
“Well, you will be the head of that split-level. A woman wants to respect her husband. If she disrupts their harmony, he should show her he’s in charge. Verbally first, of course, but then carpally. Corpally. Cor-por-ally.”
“You mean a spanking.”
Megan’s tummy hippety-hopped. “It’s called chastisement, but yes, I guess that would be a spanking. AFTER we’re married, Max. Oh! I forgot! At the reception, I want candles everywhere.”
“Imagine: They introduce us. The lights go down. You take my hand and hold me close for our first dance in the flickering candle glow.”
They set a date in late August. An eight month tryout. “You’ve been married before. This is all new for me.”
When the eyebrow and “Megan?” wasn’t enough, Max would invite her to stop. Then warn her to stop. Then dismiss her to another room.
“Perhaps you’d better go upstairs to think this over for a while.”
“Megan Dooley! Go!”
The first time, Megan just stood there, puzzled. A sharp smack on the skirt sent her on her way.
Max would join her at the edge of the bed, calmly describe his disappointment with her behavior, and ask if she had anything to say for herself.
“I’m trying, Max. I just forget sometimes.”
“August is getting closer, Meggie. What if this were September, hmm? Then what?”
Megan would squirm a bit and cross her legs.
“Then I’d get a spanking. On my bare bottom.” She didn’t like the sound of it.
“Is that what you want?”
“No. I’m afraid.”
Max told ever more instructive stories about errant women, often named Megan, and the caring partners who interrogated, lectured, and disciplined them. The early stories ended when the sniffling heroine got her first close-up view of the carpet (“I’m sorry, Honey”) or the flailing brat (“No! Let me go!”) noticed the breeze from the ceiling fan on her upturned butt.
Megan always blushed when the panties were lowered.
After a few weeks, he added blubbery codas in the corner and rueful self-examinations at the bathroom mirror.
Megan’s anxiety gradually eased. After all, she wasn’t at all like the irresponsible fictional brats and backtalkers in Max’s stories. She could see why their men disciplined them. Still, she became more and more curious about – well, about what happened in between. “Tell me about – you know… How bad is it?”
Max told her.
She was very well-behaved for six weeks. “I am never ever ever going to deserve one of those awful spankings. You’ll see.”
But she had come to enjoy the stories, especially when some other girl was kicking and hollering. Max was articulate and amusing. There were stories about Paula and Juliet, spendthrifts and sneaks, all productively disciplined, all sore-bottomed and sorry, and all much improved.
“Tell me one where she has to prove she’s learned her lesson. Something creative.”
“All right. Megan, get in here!”
“No, not Megan. Someone else.”
Her mouth is dry.
“I know, but…”
“Then what’s this?”
“We discussed this just last week. Didn’t we?”
She hears only half of what he says, but she knows where it goes and how it gets there.
He is very disappointed, and she should be, too.
“You’re sorry a lot.”
As he stands, she promises that it won’t happen again.
As he takes her by the arm, she blurts “No!”
As he leads her across the living room, she leans away. “Let me go!”
“Undo your belt.”
“I don’t want a spanking.”
She carefully removes her slacks, smoothes the creases over the back of an overstuffed side chair, lowers herself across his lap.
He gives her a quiet moment to settle. She wriggles forward, as if physical balance could restore her vanishing emotional balance.
In the stillness that follows, he feels her heart quicken.
She will be squirming soon enough, eager – desperate – to tumble to the floor in a tousled heap.
She shudders as he draws a fingertip lightly down her spine, moans as he
traces the familiar curved outline of her upturned bottom. “M-m-m-m…”
“This is the third time this month.”
“You must like having your picture taken.”
“No! Please? Not more pictures? I’ll be good. I really will this time.”
“You should have thought about that before.”
He had tired of her excuses.
“You didn’t learn your lesson the last time. Did you?”
She had agreed to be more careful with her money, but her MasterCard balances kept growing. When she blew $300 at the casino, she protested that it wasn’t the same thing as buying an expensive outfit.
“Well, it’s not!”
“It’s the same as your self-indulgent trips to the mall. It’s careless spending.”
Leaving three days’ worth of dishes in the sink was somehow entirely different from not changing the cat’s litter box for a week.
“Let go of me! I’ll wash the… Put me down! No-o-o-o…”
And yes, she did remember those three really hard spankings for pottymouth bactalk. After the last – a yelpy affair featuring the shiny side of a wooden hairbrush – she had managed to mind her manners for nearly a month.
“Is that what you want? Should I get out the hairbrush?”
“No-o-o-o-o! I’ve been good. This isn’t fair!”
“Then what was that back in the car?”
If she’d been pleasant, she might have sweet-talked her way out of a speeding ticket.
“What did you call the officer?”
“A fucking pig. He was just doing his job, and you insulted him. You have quite a smart mouth, don’t you?”
And so he had created a digital photo album on the computer.
It was called “TODAY’S CATCH”, a mocking reference to the desperate thrashing about of a hooked fish. They’d been out in a canoe on a perfect August afternoon. An angler on the riverbank strained to reel in a wriggling silver beauty.
“That looks like you.”
He named the subfolders after the categories of her misbehaviors: MONEY, CARELESS, BRATTY_RUDE, I_LIED, and so on.
He made a custom icon for the desktop shortcut to “TODAY’S CATCH”. With a painting program, he applied two diffuse blushing circles to the troughs of a 24-point capital script W. It kinda sorta looked like a spanked ass. The shortcut arrow on the icon pointed to one of the glowing glutes as if to say, “See? This is what happens to naughty little girls.”
He explained that she would have her picture taken to document the after-effects of any panties-down “tutorials” she might require in the future. She would stand in the corner – with her flaming bottom on shameful display – to practice the Socratic recitation of how her behavior would improve.
“What just happened?”
“I got a spanking,” she would pout. “It still hurts.”
“That’s right. And why did you get a spanking?”
He meant business when he used straightforward terms such as “spanking” or “punishment”. The cute euphemisms were for teasing or gentle reminders. “Do you want me to roast that pretty little rump of yours?” meant “Watch it!” or “Back away!”
“Do you want me to take you over my knee?” required immediate attention.
“I got a spanking because I broke my promise to be home by 8:00.”
CLICK! Four megapixels of glowing globes were seared into flash memory.
“When did you get home?”
“About quarter of ten.”
“What could you have done when…”
She could have politely excused herself and driven home.
The strobe flashed POP! in her puffy eyes as soon as she turned her tear-stained face toward him.
The twin photos of each misdeed were duly catalogued on the laptop – no pun intended; he just liked to carry her picture when he traveled.
“You could put a 2-by-3 in your wallet like other men.”
She hoped he would hurry. She ached to be held quietly, soothed, forgiven.
He would upload the pictures. She would add brief captions, perhaps “I will control my temper”, or “I will always tell the truth”. She would look for his approval.
And – at last – he would take her in his arms. “That’s my good girl.” She would hide her face against his shoulder. He would rock her back and forth until she had calmed, no matter how long it took.
Or he might waltz her silently about the room until a smile broke. He would tease her. She would laugh indignantly. “Stop! It hurts! You spank hard.”
Or he might send her upstairs. “Off to bed!” He would crack her bedroom door to check on her in a few minutes, leaving her to sleep if she had drifted off, sitting reassuringly at the edge of her bed if she were still awake.
“Are you okay?”
“I brought you some juice.”
“I brushed my teeth.”
“Still my best girl?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Get some sleep, then.”
“You need something?”
When he cleared his throat, her dreamy flashback vanished.
She was splayed again across his lap – rewound suddenly from her bed, past the waltzing caress, past the blinding camera flash, past the fingertips slaloming lazily along her rearward slopes.
She raises her hips.
He peels back the tight black panties.
She peers across her shoulder as they disappear over the crest of her bottom and settle in the crook of her knees.
He presses her butt forward, takes firm hold of her waist, and pulls her close.
The trailing puff of cool air kisses the fresh dew between her legs.
“Did you like it?”
She rolled over on the dry summer grass, rose onto her knees, and offered a light, lingering kiss.
“So far. It was different. Kind of evil, though.”
Megan’s crisp white monogrammed blouse reflected the moonlight in the purple stillness of the warm Wisconsin night. Tall pines stood mute guard, shielding them from the occasional passing headlights on the county highway beyond the old farmhouse.
“You want to sit on the porch?”
“No, it’s nice here.”
“I’ll get some more wine.”
As Max disappeared up the hill, Megan stared at the stars, amazed that her life’s winding path had led her to this serene spot, to this totally unexpected relationship with her former boss.
“We’re going to give it six months to see if it works. If I’m going to give my heart to someone, I want to be sure I can give it without reservation.”
Megan was back in the Midwest for a weekend visit with her father, and – her face flushed as only an Irish face can – yes, I’m going to see Graham tonight.
“Sure, Max. We should get together for breakfast.”
So Max had bought her scrambled eggs and French toast at the pancake house in the cute suburb, and Megan was smiling into her coffee about the divorced insurance salesman she’d met at church, the one who still wrote to her after she’d moved to California, who sent her gifts of flowers and spiritual books, who was giving her reason to think that after almost 40 years she might have found a soulmate.
It had been two years since Max and Megan had been laid off. An out-of-state megacorporation had bought their company and closed their office.
Max got a modest retirement package for his twenty years of service. He goofed off for a while, but he was way too young for Florida. After a while, he picked up some small consulting assignments, did a little charity work, took up cycling, gave up smoking. He got over the insult of losing his career and the heartache of losing his wife. At least she had passed quickly. With the life insurance money and a few well-chosen mutual funds, he was pretty well set.
Megan went west to be near her sister. She thought she’d like the weather, but her new job was 80% travel, and by the weekend she was usually too tired to play much tennis. And California was expensive. So she made do in a simple courtyard apartment with a pool and hoped that Graham had meant it when he said he just wanted to be sure that they were truly meant for each other.
“He’s older, but I’m okay with that.”
She had liked working for Max. “You were such a good teacher.” He gave her responsibility for things that would challenge her, offered pointers when she needed information or a gut-check, listened when she was frustrated.
“Well, you were a pleasure to work with. One of the best hiring decisions I ever made.”
“More coffee? You treated your customers well, worked hard, pitched in when we were short-handed.”
Megan flushed. “Well, still, you were a good boss. You didn’t let me get complacent.”
She was thinking yet again about the time he had firmly redirected her behavior during one of their weekly one-on-one meetings.
Yes, we’re short-handed. Yes, you have a right to a reasonable life outside work. I understand.
But you need to – no, wait, I’ve heard your side. Listen. This is what we need, and I expect you meet or exceed these standards.
Max waited for a response.
“You look like you’re going to punish me,” she blurted.
Max carefully brushed aside the obvious risk. “We don’t punish people. We give honest feedback when it’s called for, and we all agree to take that honesty as a gift.”
“Well, okay. Thank you, I guess.”
“Can we count on you?”
“No, Megan. You’ll do it. I’m asking for a commitment.”
“You’re so cautious.”
“But… If I commit and I fall a little short, then you’ll penalize me at review time. No matter how hard I work, I still get punished.”
“That’s not how it works.”
“You have that look again.”
“Like you’re gonna spank me.”
Max fought off recurring erections for the rest of the day.
Megan daydreamed in her cubicle about getting another goo
He’d say, “I don’t like surprises, Megan.”
“But you don’t understand…”
“That’s enough, Meg.”
“There’s so much work. I need more help.”
“What you need is a good spanking.”
And right there – just down the hall from all the others – he hauled her over his knee. “Come here.” When he tugged her arm, she just rose from the chair and tumbled across his lap.
“Max! What are you doing?”
By the third daydream, her slacks were bunched at her ankles. She peered across her shoulder and watched in disbelief as her panties disappeared over the crest of her bottom. Her low-heeled spectator pumps waved about.
He tapped the base of her backside with the business end of an oval hairbrush. One…Two…
RING! RING! “Megan Dooley. Hi, Ron…”
Then an incoming e-mail. Nothing urgent.
She thrashed wildly, helplessly, as the brush crackled rhythmically into her bouncing bottom.
A gooey string of mucus dangled from her trembling upper lip. “Yes … I will … I understand … Tomorrow … Yes … Yes.” She reached back to the throbbing purple swaths at the base of her swollen cheeks.
“Go wash up, then. You should take the rest of the day off.”
She hoisted her panties gingerly into place. “Ow! Oh, God…”
Megan arrived promptly for their next meeting, armed with detailed notes about her accomplishments and customer dealings for the week. She made specific suggestions for improving a complex work process, she offered to coach the new person for an hour or so a day, she asked if she could bring some confidential documents home for the weekend. She smiled ingenuously when he complimented her professionalism.
When Angie’s vacation rolled around, Megan offered to take on her workload. “It’s just two weeks.” After three days, she showed up at Max’s office, totally overwhelmed and on the verge of tears.
“I know I said … I was here ’til nine all three nights … Don’t be angry …”
“Slow down, Megan. Have a seat.”
She looked around. No hairbrush. No tug. “Um – okay.”
In the spring, Graham sent her a “Dear Meg” note. She would always be in his heart, but he had met someone new at an interfaith gathering.
Bastard! You’re fucking her three times a week, right? Asshole!
“Here, give me your glass. What’s with you?”
Max was back with the wine.
“Uh – nothing. I’m okay. Why were the people in your story so anonymous?”
“What do you mean?”
“They didn’t have names. You didn’t say what they looked like, what they did.”
“Does it matter?”
“Is she someone else?”
“Megan, it’s just a story.”
“But – if you like – she can be a jealous Irish lass with fiery hair and a temper to match…”
“Stop. I do not.”
“Have a temper.”
“…who, after a lifetime of toil and loneliness and heartbreak, at last finds happiness by the blessed union of palm and posterior. She prays atop the altar of the bended knee. (‘Dear Lord, look down with mercy on the buns of this poor sinner, that she may sit to praise you upon the uncushioned pews of thy house of worship…’)
Megan slapped at his shoulder. “Sto-o-o-p! Hey, let’s go fishing!”
“Tomorrow. Let’s go fishing. Your story reminded me. You said you’d take me some time.”
“Um, okay. Sure. What’s got into you?”
“More wine, please, Max?”
Megan leaned back on her elbows, gazing contentedly at the sky to a lullaby of crickets.
“Is that the North Star?”
“You don’t think we’re like that couple, do you?’
“It was just a story, Meg.”
“I mean, I don’t spend a lot of money or use foul language. I don’t drive you crazy.”
“No, but you do better with a little structure.”
“I guess. Like back at work. Is that what you mean?”
“Clear expectations. If you do this, Thing A happens; if not, Thing B happens.”
“That’s why I thought you were going to punish me.”
“That’s not how it was.”
“I was just thinking about that time in your office. When you went back to the house, I realized I had to tell you.”
“Promise not to be angry?”
“What is it, Megan?”
She emptied the bottle into her glass and swigged it down.
“My mouth’s dry. I guess I’m nervous. But well, we’re finally getting married next week, and I don’t want to be at all like that girl in your story.”
“So here goes…
“She had waited a very long time for him…”
“Megan, don’t make up a long story if you’re just going to call yourself ‘She’. If you have something to say, just say it.”
“Well, the story ends with her always being able to be honest with him, no matter what, because he always responds out of love.”
“What did you do, Megan Dooley?”
She stood up and brushed the pine needles from her clothes.
“Come on, Max. It’s late. Let’s go in.”
She squeezed his hand as they hiked up the crickety purple slope.
“I don’t want you to have any doubts about who you are marrying when you say ‘I do’ next week. I will always honor you in every way, and that means giving you the gift of trust.
“You’re right. I do like structure, so I will trust your experience. I accept your authority. And I know that you love me.”
Max opened the squeaky screen door to the candlelit porch. “Sounds romantic.”
He set the glassware on a small cocktail table and sat to catch his breath on the edge of a picnic bench. “Whew!”
Megan stood before him and kissed his forehead.
“That time back in your office…”
“That’s a long time ago, Meg.”
“I know, but it wasn’t important to tell you then.”
She stepped out of her deck shoes.
“I said you looked as though you were going to punish me…”
“Both. And, yes, you were my boss, you had this look…”
She tossed her head back and gathered her strawberry-ash hair in the fangs of a plastic tortoise-shell clip.
“I said it because I knew you should have disciplined me, only you didn’t know it. And you were scary.”
She pulled the end of her belt from the loops on her blue jeans and unhooked the buckle.
“You were right. I was falling behind.”
“It’s worse, Max.”
She slipped the silvery metal button loose and slowly lowered her zipper.
“When I was out on disability? I took six weeks. When the insurance company started to look into it, I came back. I could have come back in a week, but I didn’t want to face that work, or deal with those people, or risk your disapproval.”
She tugged at the waistband and shimmied her hips. The jeans dropped to her knees.
“And I wasn’t working late. I was working on my resume, searching the job ads on the internet.”
Megan wobbled as she lifted first one foot, then the other. She carefully smoothed and folded the denim and set it on the bench.
“I know you were catching hell about me, but you always defended me, always said I was pulling my weight – and I got away with it. How selfish! Should I take this off?”
Max shrugged his shoulders. She undid the top button of her cotton blouse.
“So now, as we become one, there is no fear. There are no secrets, no lies.”
She calmly laid the blouse over the bench and unhooked the front clasp of her bra. Her breasts slumped free, the rich brown nipples stiffening in the night air.
“I do have a temper. You know I can be stubborn. Promise me something.”
“Always expect the best of me.”
With that, Megan lowered herself across Max’s lap and wriggled forward into a helpless dangling-legs position.
“Thank you for your honesty, Meggie.”
“Mm-hmm. This feels weird. Am I doing this right?”
“You’re fine. But that doesn’t excuse what you did.”
“I know. I love you.”
Two taps. She raised her hips.
Max reached i
nto the waistband and peeled back her tight black panties.
Megan pressed her palms to the floor and propped herself up. Peering across her shoulder, she watched with otherworldly fascination as the last of her modesty disappeared over the crest of her bottom, slid down her thighs, and settled into the crook of her knees.
“Your chest is pounding.”
“I’m a little afraid now.”
He traced a fingertip lightly across her spine, then schussed around the outer slope of the far nether-cheek, up and down the sensitive rims of her cleft, and onward around the near curve – a perfect Valentine’s Day heart to be painted crimson.
“I love you, too, Megan.”
The peach fuzz on her wobbling bottom stood erect in a sea of goose bumps.
“One time, when I was nine or ten, I got in the car and backed it down the driveway into a tree. My dad sent me up to my room, said he was gonna teach me a lesson I’d never forget.”
“He cooled off, just grounded me.”
Max pressed Megan’s bottom forward, took firm hold of her waist, and pulled her close.
“This works better.”
The trailing puff of cool air kissed the fresh dew between her legs.
“Max? Ow… We left the camera … A-a-a-h! Oh! … back in the city…”
“My cell phone’s in the suitcase.”
Megan’s gold cross danced in the candlelight.