Jade could pin-point the moment things went wrong.
Her best friend Connor and her new friend Emma started laughing at a joke she didn’t get. They were sitting around the kitchen table at Jade and Lisa’s house, splitting a six pack and talking. Jade gave a small half-hearted laugh but felt her face begin to burn with embarrassment. She got up abruptly, heading to the kitchen for another beer.
While she had the fridge open, Lisa walked in; she’d been in the backyard pulling weeds when the friends had come in the front. “Hello, Connor,” she said with a smile, pausing inside the door to take off her gardening gloves.
“Hey, Ms. Eckridge,” Connor said, awkwardly covering his beer can with his hand.
“Lisa,” she corrected him automatically, as she hadn’t been his teacher in almost a decade and truly couldn’t care less what he was drinking. “Lisa,” she said again, tone introductory now as she turned from Connor. “Emma?”
Emma nodded, smiled, and said, “Yes ma’am,” without thinking much about it, then was surprised to find herself blushing a little. Lisa didn’t seem to notice, though, as she tossed her gloves onto a cart full of gardening gear by the door and went to wash her hands.
“Beer?” Jade said, still standing with the refrigerator door open.
“Please,” Lisa said, grabbing a hand towel then setting it down to take the drink. “Thank you.”
“Mhm,” Jade said, shutting the door and opening her new can. “Anyone else?”
“Yo,” came Connor’s answer as he opened his hands like a wide receiver waiting on the pass.
“No,” Lisa said flatly before Jade could even consider tossing it, taking her own beer and going to sit at the table. Jade smirked a little, grabbing a can for him and acknowledging Emma’s silent no-thank-you nod. She brought it over and had a seat herself as she tried to shake off her earlier feeling of insecurity and just relax.
“Do you do a lot of gardening?” Emma asked Lisa.
“More now than I used to. There are blackberries along the back fence that are supposed to be low maintenance but I can’t stop checking on them. Today I was just working in the flower bed out there, though, getting ready to put in some annuals. Are you into gardening?”
“I never used to be, but my partner– Danny– his mother is a botany professor and has a huge collection of rose bushes and about a million other kinds of flowers growing, so I have learned a lot from her,” Emma answered, and she and Lisa continued talking for several more minutes about the different plants they’d grown or attempted to grow over the years, with Connor chiming in a times, but Jade was distracted by her phone buzzing in her pocket.
She stepped away politely to take it, going into her bedroom to have a quick conversation with her boss about next week’s schedule. When she came back, the conversation had moved on to Emma’s graduate program and her focus on public education. She sat back down, listening and trying to catch up, but she was distracted by a gnawing in her stomach. All she could hear were the accomplishments every anecdote Emma told represented: Grad school. Volunteer programs. A summer abroad.
Jade had never been abroad.
And Jade was still working on her undergraduate degree, even though she was a few years older than Emma. Also why did Connor laugh at everything Emma said? Because he’s a dumb boy who laughs at everything anyone says, she answered herself, but it didn’t make her feel better. She’d been embarrassed in front of Emma, even ashamed in front of her before, but she’d never felt insecure until now.
Emma would probably never feel dumb and insecure about someone else, she thought bitterly, then rolled her eyes at her own ridiculous feelings. Connor nudged her under the table, and she realized she hadn’t been engaged at all. “What’s up?” he asked. “You okay?”
She shook her head a little, trying to clear it, and said, “Yeah sorry, work stuff. Someone called out for tomorrow and they asked if I could cover it.”
“Bummer,” Connor replied, and Lisa reached over to give her hand a squeeze and a sympathetic look. Jade offered a shrug in return.
“No big deal,” she said, annoyed with what she thought was pity.
“I should probably run,” Emma said, glancing at her phone and noting the time. “I’m Danny’s ride home later. He’s helping his brother with this old car he bought. You’ve met Ben?” she added, looking at Lisa. “No, but heard about him?”
Lisa nodded and said, “I have heard about Ben. What kind of car is it?”
“A Mustang?” Emma answered, unsure of herself. “I mean it is a Mustang but I don’t really know anything else about it. Sometime Jade will have to come see it and then she can tell you. I don’t know anything about cars.”
“I only know what Jade has taught me,” Connor said, flicking a beer tab from the table in his best friend’s direction.
She batted at it, annoyed, and kicked him lightly under the table. His cry of surprise was masked by the scooting of chairs as Emma and Lisa both stood, and Jade smirked at him before standing herself. “Not really into Mustangs,” she said, as she walked Emma to the door.
“Oh, no problem, it was just an idea,” Emma said a bit awkwardly, trying to adjust to Jade’s abrupt shift in tone. Jade forced herself to give her friend a tight smile and a quick hug. She wasn’t mad at Emma, she told herself.
“It’s chill,” she said, also feeling a bit clumsy.
“And nice to meet you guys!” Emma added as she walked onto the porch, turning one more time to wave to Connor and Lisa.
They waved back, but Jade continued to stand at the open front door even after Emma was in her car. She looked back at Connor expectantly, and he gave her an open-armed “what?” gesture.
“Bye, Connor,” she said, raising her eyebrows at him, as if it should be obvious.
Connor rolled his eyes but stood, recognizing this mood and knowing it was only going to get worse. Sometimes she could be like that for days, and he had learned to keep his distance. “Alright, I’ll catch you later. Bye, Ms. Eckridge!” he said as he, too, left through the front door.
“Bye, Connor,” Lisa replied from the kitchen where she was beginning to prep for dinner. When she heard the door shut behind him, she asked, “You okay?”
“Connor just asked me that and I said I was fine,” Jade answered testily. “Anyway I’m not hungry so don’t make anything for me.”
“Oh yes, because not eating always helps you feel better,” Lisa said in a lightly sardonic tone. She was pulling her apron down from its hook, draping it around her neck and then tying the strings behind her.
Jade rolled her eyes as she stalked back toward the breakfast table to straighten up from their socializing, and said, “Whatever, just I’m a grown-up. You don’t have to make me dinner.”
Lisa’s brow furrowed with genuine confusion, but before she could say anything, Jade tripped over the leg of one of the chairs. “Ugh!” she yelled, kicking the offending leg.
“Enough,” Lisa said, her tone taking on the same authority it did in the classroom. Jade’s ears burned, but the other woman continued, “Living room corner. Right now. I will be there in a bit.
“Aw c’mon,” Jade said, kicking the chair again defiantly. She regretted it instantly, feeling herself cringe at the expression on Lisa’s face. “Sorry sorry sorry,” she said, backing up from the table and then exiting the room, going the long way around to avoid passing her mentor on the way to the corner.
Lisa still cut her off a few steps away from her destination, wooden spoon in hand. She took a hold of Jade’s bicep with one hand and used the other to pepper her bottom with fast stinging swats as the girl hopped her way to the corner. Lisa kept popping the implement down while Jade hissed and gasped and let out occasional bursts of “Okay okay okay!” as she moved her free hand frantically around, too afraid of getting her knuckles hit with the spoon to reach back but unable to just be still.
A moment later, she was alone with her thoughts and her stinging bottom and Lisa was back in the kitchen. The heat radiating off of her bottom and trapped by her denim jeans was almost more uncomfortable than the actual pain now, though she supposed she should be grateful she still had them up. She didn’t feel grateful for anything right now, as she slipped her hands from the small of her back down to try to rub away the sting. She kept it brief, not wishing to draw attention. Next she shifted her weight from side to side and tensed different muscles in her body, squeezing and releasing and counting the seconds between. She knew she was supposed to be thinking about why she was in the corner in the first place, but she also knew that if she thought about it too much, she might start to agree that she deserved to be there.
Eventually Jade heard the oven door shut and she knew Lisa wouldn’t be much longer. She let out an unintentional sigh of relief, though she wouldn’t exactly call her pending escape from the corner any real freedom. She knew good and well she wouldn’t be making it past the couch; the thought brought her sullenness back to the surface. She heard Lisa enter and then sit on the couch before calling her over.
“Have a seat,” her former teacher said, patting the couch cushion next to her. Jade briefly considered taking the chair on the other side of the room, but thought better of it and did as she was told. Lisa turned so their knees touched and she could make eye contact and said, “What’s going on? Work stuff you said?”
“Yeah and I guess I’m not allowed to be in a bad mood,” Jade snapped, still unwilling to examine the anxiety that was driving her actions. There was just enough of a pause for her to once again regret the choice she’d just made as she watched Lisa’s mouth draw tight and her right hand literally twitch.
“Alright, we’ll try again shortly,” she said, ignoring Jade’s immediate groan. “Stand up please.”
Jade did so huffily, hands moving to the button of her jeans as if she could be quick enough to keep Lisa from smacking her hands away, but the move was unsuccessful. Her former teacher glared up at her as she first unbuttoned and then unzipped the younger woman’s jeans, then pushed them down into a rumpled pile at her knees before tugging her down. Jade groaned again as she settled herself across the couch, reaching for a cushion and burying her face there as she felt Lisa’s hand come to rest on her bottom.
“I’m not sure what’s gotten into you, little girl,” Lisa said above her, lifting her hand and bringing it back down with a hard smack. Jade clenched her jaw and pushed her feet against the arm of the sofa where they rested, trying to absorb the spanking and ignore the rush of heat across her face. She was not a little girl.
“And when did me making dinner become a statement on your adulthood?” Lisa continued, spanking her former student’s backside with quick, even swats. “I cook almost every night, whether you are here or not. You know that.”
Jade had begun making small grunting noises in spite of herself and her toes pushed more desperately at the couch under Lisa’s relentless hand. She actually did know this– cooking was kinda Lisa’s thing she did to unwind– but in the moment it had struck her as so infantilizing to be called for dinner every night. Well this is definitely not infantilizing, she thought to herself sarcastically as she gritted her teeth through some especially hard swats to the tops of her thighs and Lisa’s continued scolding.
“And you were flat out rude to Emma as she was leaving, which is not like you at all. I’m sure she didn’t feel very good about that and I hope you apologize later.”
“Whatever, I don’t want to talk about Emma!” Jade yelled, pushing her hands now against the sofa and bowing her back as Lisa continued to spank her. The other woman made an interested “hmm” noise like she’d just solved some sort of mystery that made Jade mad all over again. She pushed harder against the seat cushion, briefly considering whether she could break loose from Lisa’s hold. Instead she found herself being lifted at the waist and moved forward; it was so disconcerting that she gasped. The next thing she felt was her underwear slipping down to rest midthigh.
“Well let me know when that changes,” Lisa said above her, ending her sentence with a fresh swat to Jade’s now bare bottom. All the taught muscles in Jade’s upper body went slack as she dropped back down, giving up the struggle under the new onslaught. She still wiggled and squirmed, but now it was more reactionary. The real battle was happening inside of her as she struggled to strangle the voice that wanted to admit to her feelings, however illogical they may seem.
Jade was finding it hard to do that and take a spanking at the same time, and eventually she burst out, “Fine! I’ll talk! I’ll talk!”
Just like that, Lisa stopped spanking her, though she didn’t let Jade move an inch. The girl let out yet another frustrated groan, now having committed to speaking but still having a hard time pushing herself to do it. This time Lisa waited her out though, and eventually Jade managed to mumble, “It felt like you like Emma better than me.”
“Honey,” Lisa said after a moment of silence and with so much affection that Jade forgave the mildly patronizing tone, “of course I don’t like Emma more than you. I just met her.”
“I know that but she was just talking about grad school and all the stuff she’s done and I’m just sort of a screw-up who landed in your lap and… and I…”
Jade trailed off as she felt Lisa’s body language shifting, her spine becoming straighter and legs lifting just a bit and, along with them, Jade’s already red bottom. “I see,” her former teacher said above her, all the softness gone from her voice.
“Wait!” Jade said desperately, sensing what was coming before the spoon actually landed. “Wait!” she screeched again when it did. She hadn’t realized Lisa had brought it with her. It smacked down heavily, somehow stinging wildly but still hurting deeply.
“I never went to grad school,” Lisa said. “And Emma’s probably never had a full time job.”
“So?” Jade yelled, struggling to keep her hands out of the way and eventually burying them under her chest.
“Hmm,” Lisa said, plastering the tops of Jade’s thighs and her sit-spots with the spoon, “I think that was supposed to be my point, not yours. So is exactly right, though. You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be, Natalie Jade. Making the best choices for you. Irreplaceable you,” she finished sternly.
“Okay, I know, I’m sorry,” Jade said between gasps, but the spoon had never wavered as Lisa had spoken and she didn’t seem to have plans for letting Jade speak in silence, either. “I just felt… insecure. I don’t know!”
“And instead of just telling me,” Lisa scolded, “You were rude to your friends and then to me. You threw a big tantrum, and you earned a spanking, and now you’ll have a sore bottom to remind you that you are exactly where you belong.”
“Ow, I do, I do understand!” Jade said, now on the verge of tears and with a bottom that felt three times its normal size. “I’m sorry,” she cried desperately, and her fears seeming more foolish by the second.
“Next time, say something to me earlier and I will happily reassure you and I won’t need a wooden spoon to do it,” Lisa said above her, though she stopped spanking only a few seconds later. Jade took several deep breaths and tried to stop her chin from quivering, but several tears escaped her lids anyway. She swiped at her cheek with the back of her hand.
“Yes ma’am,” Jade said shakily before letting out a soft whine as Lisa returned her underwear to their proper place. Then she stood stepping out of her jeans entirely before throwing herself back onto the couch and into Lisa’s waiting arms.
The older woman rubbed the girl’s back and ran her fingers through her hair and said, “I’m always happy to remind you how much you are loved and wanted. There are ways of asking that won’t end in you getting a spanking. And there are ways that will always guarantee it. Do you understand?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jade said quietly. Her anxieties had become much smaller the moment she’d said them aloud and now, cuddled up in Lisa’s arms, she couldn’t feel more secure.