Emma smiled up at Danny from beneath the glow of their newly decorated tree.
“Looks perfect,” he said, giving her shoulder a squeeze. She bit her lip, an impish gleam in her eye. “Know what we’re missing?” she asked.
He raised an eyebrow at her and said, “We cut our own tree. We made and drank mulled cider. We listened to Mariah Carey. What could we possibly be missing?”
Emma disentangled herself from his arm and walked toward the dormant hearth below the tv in their living room. “A fire!” she said, her arm sweeping back in a grand gesture.
”Ah,” said Danny. “I see you have absorbed too much Christmas cheer and now have unrealistic expectations about how this evening is going to proceed.”
Emma could hear that he was being playful and saying no at the same time. Her bottom lip protruded and she said “I’m serious. I want a fire!”
Danny considered her for a moment, but his answer didn’t change. “Not tonight, baby. It’s not really cold enough out for one, but we also haven’t used the fireplace since last February. I’ll have someone come this week and clear the chimney, if you’re ready for us to start using it this season.”
”I’m ready right now,” she pouted, crossing her arms.
”Ready for bed, I think,” Danny said, slipping easily into his no-nonsense voice. “We’re not going to end this lovely day with a tantrum.”
Emma opened her mouth to reply, then thought better of it. She nodded as her jaw snapped shut, even managing a small smile. Tonight clearly wasn’t an option., but Danny would be gone tomorrow afternoon and as far as Emma was concerned, she hadn’t agreed to anything.
~ ~ ~
The fire made everything perfect, just as Emma had pictured. They had a modest woodpile outside, and she’d had to swallow her excitement as she waited for Danny to leave for his last meeting of the semester. She knew he wouldn’t be thrilled with her, but had just about convinced herself that he would be okay as long as everything went according to plan— and it did!
She thought he was just being paranoid, and blamed the lack of a real fire in his childhood home. Emma had none of the same reservations, and had built the fire with ease and confidence.
Somehow, she didn’t quite grasp how unhappy he would be until the moment she heard his keys in the door. A mild panic descended as her brain screamed, “This was a mistake! A huge mistake!”
It was too late to fix it now. Danny was walking inside, laying his briefcase on the kitchen table, and walking in her direction. “Wait,” she squeaked, “look first, look first! It all turned out fine.”
To her surprise, he did stop. His jaw twitched, but after a second he spoke. “Emma Grace, go find a corner.”
“But Danny the tree—“
“Find. A different. Corner.”
Emma glanced around the room, deciding speed was better than precision, and walked to the corner opposite the tree. There was a speaker there, but she got as close as she could and then put her hands behind her back.
A moment later, she heard Danny walking upstairs, then almost immediately back down. That meant one thing.
~ ~ ~
It was beside him on the couch when he called her over, and she winced reflexively. “Walk faster,” Danny said as she inched her way toward him, and Emma sped up. Once at his knee, he looked up at her disapprovingly.
“I can’t believe I have to put you across my knee this close to Christmas, and for something so childish.”
“Aww, Danny,” Emma said, blushing and tugging at the hem of her sweater. “I just knew it would be okay…”
“You thought it would be okay. You hoped it would be okay. You knew that I asked you to wait.”
“You were supposed to put your corner time to better purpose. I’ll check in again when I think you are feeling less argumentative.” With that, Danny reached up and took a hold of Emma’s wrist, pulling her across his waiting lap. Her skirt fell high around her stomach and her tights found themselves mid-thigh in short order. Danny’s hand crashed down on her panties, a blue pair with white snowflakes that had been picked with deliberate cheer just that morning.
Now Emma gave no thought to her undergarments, distracted as she was by the crack of Danny’s palm on her bottom. She soon pushed her own palms against his thigh, straining against the spanking.
Dan paid no mind to her discomfort as he began to question her, leading her slowly down the path to its inevitable conclusion: contrition alongside the hairbrush. He was, as a rule, taken with Emma’s seemingly endless practical knowledge (she’d taught him how to build a proper fire when they’d first rented the house). But his admiration of her skills did not extend to her impulsive need for immediate results. He would have listened if she’d wanted to make a case that morning, and made his own case if she’d been willing to hear it.
But that wasn’t what had happened, and now Emma was squirming and kicking by the light of the fire she’d built and the tree they had cut. They were a mostly silent audience, paying no mind when Danny eventually lowered his girlfriend’s underwear, or later when he picked up the brush. The smack of the wood on Emma’s bottom was different, and her protests changed dramatically, but the crackle of the fire and the silence of the Virginia pine remained the same.
“What was the rush, little girl?” Danny finally asked, slowing the steady stream of swats as he awaited her answer.
Sore and increasingly sorry, Emma said, “There wasn’t one! I just wanted it and I’m sorry!”
Danny brought the brush down harder, ensuring that she’d feel the effects of this spanking well into tomorrow, and said “Never acceptable. You will abide by the rules we set or you will convince me to change them. There is no third option. Is that understood?”
“It’s understood, Danny! It is, it is!” Emma said finally flinging her hand back to cover her aching bottom. It was snatched up in short order, just as the hairbrush began to land with more frequency on her sit spots. No amount of kicking seemed to distract the wooden implement from its intended target, and no amount of apologizing seemed to slow Danny down.
Of course, he was listening to her every moan, groan, and plea. And when he felt confident that she was as regretful now as she’d been impetuous before, he did put the hairbrush down. He adjusted her underwear, then moved to tug her tights back up. She growled somewhat pitifully at his movement, and he left them be with a smile. Moments later she was tugging them off as she sat on his lap. They fell from her toes and she curled into his chest, attempting to put more weight on her hip than her bottom.
Danny helped her balance, kissed her forehead, and said “All finished, baby. And regardless of whether you should have or not, you did build a beautiful fire.”
Emma grunted into his chest, rubbed her bottom, and said, “So did you, I guess.”
Silence followed as Danny registered her joke. Emma didn’t see him roll his eyes, but she felt his chest rise as he tried to stifle his laughter. She smiled, getting the proof she always needed that she was forgiven. And of course, finally– things really were perfect.