Jade stood over the sink in her kitchen with a stack of math worksheets in one hand and a lighter in the other. She hesitated for only a second, then gave into her impulse and flicked the rough metal dial. Moments later, acrid smoke filled the air as the white pages curled and twisted. She had to turn the stack slightly left and then right to keep feeding the flames; they seemed hesitant to devour the rows of formulas and numbers. She didn’t care. She wanted them all destroyed.
She was two weeks into the spring semester at the local university, and she already felt completely defeated. She’d had to pump herself up before even signing up for this one, especially knowing that this would be the first of several math classes she’d need to get her degree in business administration. She’d been doing online work all over Christmas break, and doing so well that she was almost ready for the class to start. The moment things became difficult, though, her usual insecurities began to settle in. She’d come a long way in conquering those, but math still made her aware of all her perceived inadequacies in a way no other subject could.
She waited until she could feel the heat on her fingers, then threw the faucet on full blast and dropped the charred papers into the water. She wrinkled her nose; it smelled terrible now. She cast a guilty glance at the front door. She didn’t want Lisa coming home to the smell of fire in her house. Again.
With a sigh, she opened the kitchen window and let the cold air fill the indoor space. She rubbed her arms against the chill, but didn’t reach for a jacket before cleaning up the mess. Her triumph had blazed and disappeared along with the small fire, and now she felt deflated.
~ ~ ~
By the time Lisa got home that afternoon, there was no evidence of the tantrum. She moped around the house as her friend and mentor graded papers and then made dinner. Lisa gave her a few “whenever you’re ready” looks, but she didn’t make a habit out of digging for answers. It was a trait Jade loved and hated in equal measures. She knew how the conversation would go anyway. Lisa would be sympathetic, but then she’d want to make a plan. Hire a tutor or download some new math app, along with a pep talk. Jade felt sulky just thinking about it.
She didn’t want a solution yet. She just wanted sympathy and someone to agree that math was dumb, class was hard, and all of it was pointless. That was the pep talk she wanted.
It was a long shot, but Jade couldn’t keep quiet. She poked her fork at her steamed broccoli and said quickly, “I’m like, failing math.”
Lisa raised an eyebrow, then said matter-of-factly, “You can’t be failing. It’s only been two weeks. But you’re having trouble with it?”
“I guess,” Jade replied, still attacking her plate.
“Have you talked to the professor?”
“I hate the professor,” Jade said without thinking. She made a face at her plate as she heard Lisa sigh, and was unprepared for the sharp “Hey!” from across the table. Her head shot up before she had time to look anything but guilty. Lisa made fierce eye contact and said, “Enough with the faces. And the pouting.”
“Okaaaay,” Jade said, blushing and looking at her plate again. She wondered briefly if she was going to have to say “yes, ma’am,” but Lisa kept talking. “Is there an actual problem with the professor? Is she not doing a good job?”
“He,” Jade said, and then, for no reason at all, “He’s terrible. He just gives us assignments without explanation. And if you don’t understand Monday’s work, you can’t do Wednesday. And then you can’t do Friday. But he just says ‘read the text book.’”
Jade’s face was so hot you could light a match off of it. She was oddly lucky that she had already been blushing, or Lisa would have noticed the deep red Jade’s dark skin became as she lied. She didn’t even know why she lied, except to distance herself from any blame for her predicament. The awful thing was that, deep down, she knew she had some responsibility. Her professor actually seemed pretty great. He offered to help anyone who needed it after every class. More than once, she’s felt his gaze boring into her during the announcement, and she’d squirmed in her seat.
He wasn’t much older than Jade, actually, and for some reason that made it more difficult for her to approach him. Instead, she channeled all of her resentment of math toward him, and it came spilling out now.
“Like I guess it’s just what college is. I don’t expect anyone to hold my hand.” She glanced up and saw sympathy on Lisa’s face. Perfect. Exactly what she wanted.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. That sounds really frustrating,” she said. “I haven’t done high level math in a long time, but maybe this weekend we can look over the material together and figure it out.”
Jade smiled. “Thanks.”
She actually did feel a little better. Maybe she’d just skip Friday’s class- she had torched the assignment anyway- and then reset herself this weekend. With that, she decided to put math entirely out of her mind until then.
~ ~ ~
Unfortunately, the weekend didn’t end up being very productive. Because Jade had destroyed the assignment from Wednesday and skipped class on Friday, she didn’t have very solid information to give Lisa about what they’d been working on. She couldn’t confess that, of course, so she just babbled about formulas and flipped randomly through her book, pointing at different problems and acting confused.
She had her chasing her tail for an hour before she finally gave in. “I guess I can’t help if I can’t even figure out where to start,” Lisa said, disappointed. “Ask him on Monday for specific page numbers we can look at, and I’ll figure it out then. I might talk to Jessie. She was always good at this stuff.”
Jade was profusely apologetic and acted downright rejected, but she was secretly relieved. For her, this felt like another great excuse to employ Out of Sight, Out of Mind. She would actually need to go to class next week, but if she just paid attention and maybe asked the girl who sat next to her some vague questions, she could probably figure it out.
~ ~ ~
Monday morning, Lisa found herself knocking on the wooden door leading into Dr. Kendrick’s basement office. She’d taken the day off work for a dentist appointment, and decided to use some of her free time to ask him a few questions. After the way Jade had described him, she wasn’t especially looking forward to meeting the professor, but she thought he could at least give her some resources as she tried to figure out how to help her friend.
“Come in,” came a warm voice from behind the door. Lisa walked in, extending her hand to the man behind the desk and trying to hide her surprise. She’d been picturing someone curmudgeonly, but he barely looked 30. “Hi, Dr. Kendrick? Can I steal a few minutes of your time?”
“Hi, yes, of course…”
“Lisa. Eckridge. Sorry, I’m not in any of your classes, but I’ve been helping a friend who is and could use a little help myself.”
“Nice to meet you, Lisa. Please, call me Danny. What exactly is it you’re looking for?”
“I though maybe you could recommend some worksheets, or know of a good tutoring program through the school?”
“I have mountains of that sort of thing. Who’s your friend, if you don’t mind me asking? She may already have all the materials I have to offer, if she’s ever stopped by during office hours.”
Lisa’s brain was struggling to keep up as it re-solved the jigsaw puzzle of Jade’s school problems. Dr. Kendrick- Danny- was not the aloof old scholar she had been led to believe. He clearly cared that his students did well and tried to help them succeed. She closed her eyes and sighed. “Jade Cortez,” she said.
Her eyes opened in time to see the planes of Danny’s face shift and become stern, though all he said was “Ah.”
Lisa recognized the frustration in his expression; she was probably mirroring the same one back at him. She even thought she saw a little bit of “you know what that girl needs…” in his eyes, and she definitely understood that feeling.
He continued after a moment, “I’ve never seen Jade outside of class, and I don’t always see her in class. She was absent Friday, actually, which isn’t good when she’s already struggling with the material.”
“I see,” Lisa said. “She’ll apologize to you herself, but for what it’s worth, I’m sorry if she’s been a pain in the ass.”
Danny’s expression softened a little. It seemed that he, too, was having to rewrite his first impressions. Lisa continued, “She’s smart. She just gets intimidated and then tries to avoid the thing that scares her, until it gets so big that she can’t fix it.”
A genuinely affectionate smile graced Danny’s face, and he said, “I know the type. And I get it. I’m glad she has someone like you willing to help.”
“Oh I’m gonna help alright,” Lisa grumbled, but there was no bite to it. It was still early in the semester, and Jade would be fine, once they got her back on track. And Lisa liked knowing this Danny Kendrick character. She felt an immediate connection to him, and she appreciated the time he was willing to put in for his students, even at the collegiate level.
He actually laughed, and said “Well class starts in a few minutes, so I actually need to run. Assuming Jade shows up, would you like me to send her to you? You’re welcome to use my office, and honestly she isn’t going to learn anything today. She’s going to have to catch up first. I can meet you back here after the hour, and we can discuss with Jade some of the study guides I recommend, or the tutoring program on campus.”
Lisa nodded slowly as she thought it over. “Yeah… yeah that would be great, actually… are you sure you don’t mind?”
Danny stood and grabbed his glasses from the desk along with his briefcase. “I don’t mind at all. There’s only one other office down here, and that professor has class until at least five this evening.”
“I really appreciate it,” Lisa said. She meant both the office space and the sly detail.
Danny reached out to shake her hand. “No problem at all. I’ll send her right down.”
And with that he left the office, leaving Lisa to wait for her little miscreant to arrive.
~ ~ ~
Jade was completely caught off-guard when Dr. Kendrick called her to his desk. Class was starting in a few minutes, and she had just been making her way to the back row. She was never late, because the last thing she wanted was extra attention. This was basically her nightmare.
“Yeah?” she said awkwardly. He stopped setting up the presentation for the projector and turned his full attention to her. She had liked it better when he was looking at the computer. She wasn’t sure before now that he even knew her name.
“Could you do me a favor, please, and go down to my office for me? There’s some paperwork in the top left drawer of my desk. The door is unlocked.”
“Okay,” Jade practically squeaked, and then she rushed out of the room.
It took her thirty seconds in the hallway to realize she hadn’t asked him where, exactly, his office was. She was too embarrassed to go back into the room, though, so she looked it up on the school’s website and then made her way down two flights of stairs, into a somewhat dimly little hallway that meandered its way past several storage rooms before ending in two office doors, directly across from each other.
The plaque on the right indicated it was the door she wanted, so she tentatively turned the handle and walked inside.
~ ~ ~
Jade stared at Lisa, who was sitting in the chair across from the desk that took up most of the back wall.
Feeling trapped, she took the offense: “Why aren’t you at school?!”
Lisa’s eyebrows shot up so high that Jade feared they might fly off. “Why do you think you get to ask questions right now, little girl?”
Jade crossed her arms, scowling. She once again felt herself reverting back to the stubborn teenager Ms. Eckridge had first met.
“Sit,” Lisa thundered, standing herself and pointing at the abandoned leather armchair.
Jade sat, arms still crossed, and looked pointedly away. Lisa took her chin and dragged her unwilling face back forward and said very slowly “Eyes. On. Me.”
She moved her hands to her hips as she got into full lecture mode. Jade shifted nervously, her attitude quickly slipping away. She felt small, swallowed up in the big chair while Lisa paced and scolded her.
“You completely mislead me. Not because you ask, but the reason I am here is to help you. I thought I might be able to find some resources so I could learn enough math to help you pass your class.”
Jade twisted one hand in the other, looking down guiltily at this, and then sharply back up at Lisa’s growl.
“And I didn’t mind that at all, until I found out that you have it put in the same effort. Not by half. I cannot believe you have not been down to this office before today, or that you skip class on Friday. Knowing we planned to work Saturday.”
“But I was going to—“
“No. There is no ‘but’ here, Natalie Jade. You mislead me. I get the fear over the subject and I get the anxiety about talking to me, but I do not understand why you let me think one thing, know the truth was another thing entirely.
“You might not understand either. People do silly things when they’re scared. What you need to understand now, though, is that it won’t happen again.”
Every muscle in Jade’s stomach tightened. That was the tone Lisa usually used right before—
“Stand up, pants down, hands on the desk.”
Jade’s eyes went wide but she didn’t move. She opened her mouth and no words came out.
“Now. There’s twenty minutes of class left and then Dr. Kendrick will be back to talk to you. There’s no one else on this floor to hear a thing, but if he shows up and you’re still sitting in that chair, he’s going to witness me dragging you up and across my lap. Is that how you want this spanking to go?”
“No!” Jade said, scrambling up. Tears pricked her eyes as she unbuttoned and unzipped her jeans, but there was no sympathy on Lisa’s face. Jade shoved her jeans down and bent over, gripping the edge of the desk. She was overwhelmed with shame and embarrassment, and at this point just wanted the punishment to begin so it could end.
She felt Lisa grab her boy shorts and yank them down well below her knees, then watched as her hand reached over to grab a sturdy wooden ruler that had been, up until this point, jutting innocently out of a desk organizer full of pens and pencils.
She squeezed her eyes shut as she felt Lisa’s arm encircle her waist, then whack!
Jade would later reflect, as she observed the marks on her backside and tenderly felt the worst spots in her bedroom mirror, that the ruler wasn’t half as bad as the hairbrush. However, as it came down across her bare bottom in the basement office of her professor, she thought that it was the worst thing she’d ever felt.
Lisa didn’t hold back at all as she spanked the wayward student, keeping her secured as her feet occasionally lifted and ignoring the ow, ow, OWs that came as frequently as the swats she was applying. Jade couldn’t help herself from shifting left and right, but it didn’t seem to stop a single sharp swat from finding its mark. It was apparently the perfect sized implement for whaling on the crease between Jade’s bottom and thighs, which Lisa did with enthusiasm.
She usually didn’t consider herself the stoic type when it came to Lisa, but the office setting and the semi-public feeling of being at the college made Jade want to be as well behaved as possible during her spanking. She was surprised to find that, even with all the will-power she could muster, it was a losing battle. No matter how much she deserved the punishment, she couldn’t keep herself from yelling and twisting. Big tears splattered on the desk, a slow trickle that seems to fall in time to the desperate “Lisa. Pleaaasse!” whimpers that escaped her mouth. Every time it felt like the ruler couldn’t come down harder, it did, until Jade could do nothing but plead and cry.
When it was over, finally over, Jade was convinced her bottom would never fit into her jeans again, though of course, miraculously, she was able to get them on. She wiped a hand across her eyes before sitting delicately down again in the armchair. Lisa squatted down next to her, looking up and resting her arms in the girl’s lap.
“Next time, tell me before things get this big and scary and we’ll make it not so scary together. And tell me the whole real truth. Got it?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jade replied shakily. And she meant it. She always did. Not just because she hated being spanked, though she did find it to be a great deterrent. She knew she’d disappointed her friend, and she didn’t want to do that again.
“Dr. Kendrick will be back soon, and we will figure this out. Okay?”
Jade nodded, still looking down.
“Okaaaaayyy?” Lisa said again, prompting her for a better answer. It worked, and Jade smiled. “Yeah, okay. Okay okay. We will. Thanks, Lisa.”