Morgan hated hot evenings in May. For some reason she could never understand why her body reacted so treacherously to the unexpected heat. The stomach ache had gotten her t-shirt smelly and perspired in less than thirty minutes. Maybe she was trying to hard to hide from Adam her biggest secret – but even so, in winter, for example, she rarely had stomach aches.
She locked the bathroom door, ran the cold tap water. Avoiding her own accusing gaze in the mirror, she began soaping her hands frantically, like a surgeon getting ready for an operation. What she had done was not stupid, but Adam wouldn’t agree - one solid reason why he should not find out. She paused to peek through her cut jeans at the wound on her knee: The blood had stopped flowing but the scratch was huge. So were the other scratches, but maybe, if she took two pills of vitamin C each morning and rubbed in that cream she had purchased, they would heal in a week. Careful not to injure herself further or cause more blood to surge, she peeled off her jeans, all the way to her ankles, stepped out of them and threw them in the pile of dirty clothes.
The scent of cologne dissolved into the air, sharpening her mind. She rubbed furiously the alcohol on her wounded knee, embracing the pain, watching mesmerized as the scratch marks reopened, allowing light colored blood to emerge again.
“If it hurts, it means it kills the microbes”, she repeated aloud the mantra. Hard, she pressed the compress against her leg, allowing the burn to numb the feeling in her knee. The wave of pain would wash away her anxiousness. With trembling hands, hooked on her pain and disinfecting obsession, she spilled more alcohol onto the other wounds. Pain was something she needed. It wasn’t a complete cure, but it was as good as any over-the-counter pill was for her wrecked nerves. It was soothing.
“Now, whatever you do this week, do not let him see the wounds. Do not let him see the wounds or else, girlie, you are in such big shit…” She stared at her own face in the mirror. “You are such an idiot,” she added, sighing.
She began wrapping the sterile compresses in a bag. The bag landed in the trash bin. The job was done.
Sitting on the toilet lid, her shaky fingers reached for the cigarette pack. The smoke poured into her lungs and the nicotine straight to her nerves, intoxicating. She could definitely hide this. Adam will never find out.
“Do you want to go swimming tomorrow morning?”
On the couch, Adam had gathered her in his arms, while they were watching “Brainiac” on Discovery.
She shook her head. “I’m really tired. I’m not in the mood.”
“But you like swimming.”
“Usually. Not now though.”
He kissed her forehead and she smiled. His fingers began rubbing her tensed shoulders.
His eyes questioned her.
“Why does anything have to be wrong? I’m just not in the mood and I know you are. Or else you wouldn’t rub.”
“You’re a bit unfair.”
Hell, she was in the mood, but giving in now meant getting naked, and since two plus two make four, this would lead to her getting a spanking for those scratches. And probably not only for that...
“Let’s take a shower then. It will help you relax.”
“I’m not in the mood.”
He sighed, but gave up the subject.
Morgan glanced up. It is weird to wake up from your afternoon nap on the living room couch because you feel watched. The room had been all too quiet.
On the opposite chair, “The Last Continent” on his knees, Adam fixed her.
“Feeling better? Cold has passed?” – he asked, his eyes all of a sudden serious.
Lost between two foggy worlds, she nodded her head, but couldn’t suppress the feeling that something was wrong.
“Great,” he said, not a muscle contracting on his face. “Because you have some explaining to do.”
In her stomach, a ball of pain was growing again. She looked back at him, puzzled by this unexpected remark.
“Get up,” he added, placing the book on the coffee table. He stood up, pulling the quilt off her.
A glance down was enough for her to discover her stupidly exposed knee. She had managed to twist enough in her sleep to roll up her PJ’s until they had uncovered the bruised knee. Her look shifted uncontrolled to the forearm; she had performed the act of exposing the injuries twice.
She sat up gingerly. Her mouth was dry, her tongue was dry, her throat was drying.
“Up, Morgan, up!” Adam waited next to her. She could see his bare feet sinking into the red carpet.
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” she mumbled.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” he said, allowing her to stand up. “Lift your arms,” he ordered.
“Adam, it’s just a scratch…”
He paused only to glare at her. His look made her scowl.
She lifted her arms and he pulled the sweatshirt over her head, revealing a couple of red and purple bruises on her arms and on her hip. She looked at them too, hoping - praying - that unexpected magic would have made them vanish.
Without a word, he grabbed the sides of her pajamas bottoms and pulled them to her ankles. The nastiest scratch was still there, on her knee. The blood crust has just formed, but her itchy fingers had already been at it, peeling it off.
“Care to explain?” – he looked up at her and stood up slowly, crossing his arms over his chest.
Her tongue played the ring on her pierced lip.
“I fell.” She swallowed the knot which wouldn’t go away.
He twisted her and smacked her thigh once. The fingerprints flushed red on her fair skin.
“Try again,” he invited, hands reaching for his buckle. She watched, shivers running down her spine and rooting her to the ground. Adam’s hands began sliding the belt out of the loops.
“Yes, Morgan? I’m listening.”
“It was… umm… I fell from a motorcycle.”
He could have expected anything, as in ‘anything bad’ - because if Morgan wants to hide something, it cannot be good. But the word ‘motorcycle’ managed to get his full attention.
“Yeah, Spencer got one and allowed us to ride it.”
“You rode a motorcycle? Without protection? Without knowing how to?”
“Well, he explained –“
“Morgan! You got on a motorcycle and rode it on your own?”
“I was just doing what everyone else did. And it’s not hard.”
“Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?”
“How dangerous can it be?”
Confronting Adam and playing dumb had never been a smart move, unless you hoped to win a trip over his knee and get your ass spanked thoroughly. He stared at her, aware of her bluff.
His finger rose to point to the distant corner.
“Now, Morgan. Put your nose into that corner. When you have calmed down, you can come out.”
“I am calm. You might need some calming down, however.”
The next moment she was bent under Adam’s arm, getting to taste a few licks of the belt.
“You might want to rephrase your last statement,” he suggested, not releasing his grip on her. He looked back at the mass of hair running down over her face.
“I’m sorry,” she offered with the tone of someone ready to say anything that was expected without wanting to lose face. So Adam took the words for what they were – a stubborn refusal to accept the guilt and to display remorse.
“And this is not even the spanking for your joyride,” Adam mused, continuing to smack her bottom hard. Her frantic legs managed to kick away the pajamas bottoms.
“I’m sorry,” she whined again, with more feeling.
Not fully convinced, he released her waist, placing her in front of him. If she was to look straight at him she would stare at his neck. She had to look up to see his eyes. He raised his eyebrows at her, expectantly: she walked towards the corner, as dignified as she could, given her situation.
Her senses opened. She closed her eyes, diving into darkness, listening intensely to all the small sounds she was no other time aware of. The furniture creaked, and she heard the sound of the belt being placed on the table. The next sound was of Adam picking up the book and sitting back into his chair. And then nothing, only her breathing, her own hard swallowing, or the engine of a distant car passing on the road. A few pages turned. And his voice, corrupting the silence, startled her:
“That’s enough. Come here.”
In her chest, the heart began thumping. She felt it even in her stomach. She stopped in front of him, inspecting the carpet.
“Let me see your arms.” It didn’t feel like an order, but she knew better than to say ‘no’.
She extended them sideways, in an attempt to hide a bigger crime. There was a slim chance that he would not see them, for the lighting was not that sharp in the room and the sun had already crossed the sky towards the western windows.
She only looked up because if he was to notice something, she wanted to witness the instant change on his features. Adam’s brows wrinkled and he stared at her forearm long enough to make her nervous; then, as if realization dawned on him, he grabbed her other forearm. Please tell me that I’m not seeing this, his face seemed to say. But once the shock wiped out his face, he looked up at her slowly.
“What are these?” – he asked, his patience hiding the storm.
She was on the edge. She took a safe dive. “Scratches from when I fell.” Such a good lie it could have fooled even herself. But evidence is evidence:
“Morgan, these are cuts.”
There was silence.
“They are?” Such a stupid reply. The right answer would have been - in a normal situation and with a clear head – ‘are you stupid, what do you mean cuts, you might want to have your eye-sight checked by a professional’. The question ‘They are’ might have been pronounced like a straight-out confession – it didn’t make a difference.
“When and why?”
“What do you mean?” Yes, this was more like it. Playing dumb might still save her butt. And save her the shame of confessing to what she has done.
“If you make me repeat one more time a question, Morgan, you will be in tears before I start spanking you for the motorcycle issue and for these,” he said, pointing at them. “Look at me.”
His eyes were not comforting.
“When did you do this and why? Does it have anything to do with your drastic change in appearance? I can tolerate that. But I will never allow you to hurt yourself.”
“What’s wrong with cutting yourself?”
“Why would you cut yourself?”
She raised her shoulders. Not in the mood to explain, it’s enough embarrassment for one day, she seemed to say.
“I was angry. I needed to calm down.”
“It looks like it was more than a 10 seconds punch in the wall…”
“Calming down took longer than that. I was so focused on the pain and not cutting too deep that it made me relax.” And then tending on her cuts. The burn of the alcohol. The view of the cuts turning from a white dash, to a red one. The swelling.
“You mean to tell me that you needed a spanking but instead of coming to ask for it you went for cutting yourself?”
“Is there a difference between you giving me what I need and me, taking it myself? From a psychological point of view?”
Adam shook his head, almost amused.
“Yes. On a deeper level it definitely is. If you want to talk psychology here, we will, and you know you would lose the battle because reason is on my side. Spanking keeps you organized and focused and is not done with a sharp… whatever this was.”
“It serves the same cause.”
He fixed her eyes and she met his gaze without blinking.
“I’ll show you the difference between the two right now, don’t worry.”
She couldn’t understand how he could move so fast from standing up, to having her over his knee, on the couch. The boy shorts she was wearing slid down, stopping the move of her legs.
“Next time you need a spanking,” he announced, his hand coming down rhythmically, “you ask for a spanking. You do not cut yourself or do other dumb stuff. You come and you ask, you hear me?”
She nodded, swallowing the knot in her throat.
“You need to talk about something, you talk. Is that clear for you?”
The spanking proceeded without further comments. Morgan stiffened her body, trying to control the pain. She wriggled, hoping that this one single time Adam would miss the sore spots. But instead, the smacks were piling up on her sit spot. The attempt to cover her butt failed when both her hands were brought to the small of her back; she was left with nothing to bite onto, nothing to put her face into to muffle her cries.
“Is the difference between self-mutilation and spanking obvious to you now?”
The nod was not what Adam wanted and he marked his unhappiness with sharper slaps on her thighs.
“Yes. Yes. It’s clear.”
“What happens next time you feel angry, frustrated, or in need for a punishment?”
“I ask for it.”
“Exactly. That is exactly what you will do, or else, when I get my hands on you, you won’t know what hit you.”
Her breathe quickened, and he felt the sobs shaking her back under his hand.
“Stand up,” he ordered, without giving her time to quiet down. “And get your ass back into the corner. Think about the difference between cutting yourself and spanking. And you can also think about the one hundred lines you will write for me tonight. Don’t look at me; look at the wall. Right.”
She couldn’t think about the difference now. She wouldn’t. If it had been the right choice she wouldn’t have wanted to hide it from Adam. The sobs became sparser. The sniffling went on, until Adam came to her with a paper towel, inviting her to blow her nose.
“I should have been more open to the signs you were giving. I should have spanked you in the first place, when you shouted at me last week. How many times have you done this before, without telling me?”
She didn’t answer. She opened her eyes to stare at the while wall.
“I haven’t done it in years. But remember that time we had your parents over and I got really mad? That’s when I started. I needed to relax.”
“I could have taken you for a walk to have a talk, if only you had told me.”
“I didn’t want you to know. I can handle things myself.”
“Hell, I can see that!” He didn’t care about hiding the sarcasm. She didn’t comment on it.
He moved slowly behind her, close enough for his mouth to sharpen the words in her ear: “Do I have to check you arms from now on, Morgan?”
“No Sir.” – she whispered.
“Better not. Or else, this ass,” he added, clasping a hand on her red behind, “will be sorer than it’s ever been.”
The footsteps echoed as he strode to the kitchen. When the drawer opened, she already knew what he was looking for. She wished she could cry. But squeezing her eyes tight together didn’t help. Her fear was the attention grabber for her senses. She could smell it.
“Come here, please,” he called.
The legs of a chair scratched noisily the parquet. She followed the voice and found him sitting on that darn chair, wooden spoon in his hand. He extended his left hand. It wasn’t an invitation to dance. He grabbed her wrist and pulled her small body over his knees.
“Riding motorcycles is a “no”. You knew it when you entered this relationship. Not a ‘maybe’: a ‘no’. And riding by yourself – that is a crime. If you want adrenaline, here is your dose.”
Any wooden implement hurts. But for Morgan the wooden spoon seemed to hurt more than anything she has ever felt. One solid smack did not mean one pain, but a thousand of small and vicious stings, spreading all over her bottom, and hanging in there, waiting for more pain to pile up on top of them. And there was no break allowing the pain to subdue. Her hands grasped his pants and the chair legs. The high-pitched cries dried her throat. She didn’t plead not even once, only wailed and voiced her agony in an attempt to sooth the pain. But nothing could stop the pain, expect for Adam. And Adam was not finished with her. The spoon worked its way towards her thighs. This was not only about the motorcycle. It was more and she knew it. It was about her own rage, caused by god-knows-what; it was about her new piercing and her new haircut and her new attitude. About sassing him.
Her body collapsed, giving up the fight. And Adam stopped, allowing her to roll off his lap, on her knees. He cupped her head and planted a kiss on her forehead and her arms reached for his neck.
He sat down on the floor, cuddling her, until her crying stopped.
“You’re just stressed. We’ll get over it together.”
“I’m tired,” she whispered.
“We can nap on the couch if you want,” he indulged her.
She smiled at him, her teary eyes shining happily. She loved afternoon naps, with him, on the couch.