Sarah waited at the end of the hall outside Greg’s room. They always put him in the room at the end of the hall. How considerate, she thought, though she wondered if the consideration was more for him or his charges.
The sounds of spanking had faded several minutes ago, clearly audible from the corridor though Sarah reasoned the sound was only identifiable to those who knew what they were listening for. Now the claps had stopped, and through the door she could hear Greg murmuring softly to his new apprentice. Every once in a while someone would shoot her a knowing look as they entered or exited other rooms down the corridor, but not often. Not everyone knew why she was there, but there were enough who did to make the position decidedly uncomfortable.
Better get used to it, she thought. It’s only the first night of the retreat, and I have a whole week of this to look forward to.
The Bay Area Writing Retreat was a week Sarah looked forward to every year since she had attended as a student. At 18 she was well behaved, but so quiet and shy that her school had sent her to the retreat to try to break her out of her shell. It gave her warm feelings even now to think that some teacher had seen enough potential in her to send her here- a gesture for which she was extremely grateful. It had changed her life.
Every year was the same. Hundreds of students came from across the region for what was marketed as a conference on creative writing. In reality it was so much more. Throughout the week, amidst the workshops and criticism sessions, the students invariably bonded with whoever wound up randomly assigned to their groups. Something about accessing this kind of deep creativity lead to the sharing of intensely personal stories with a small group that had been strangers only days before. The act of sharing, the catharsis in reflection, lead to lifelong friendships. That closeness paled in comparison to the relationships between staff members, as those who stayed on soon found out.
Her student year was a powerful experience, and so she had volunteered to come back every year as a member of the staff. For the first few years as one of the junior guides, a group affectionately termed “the minions,” it was easy enough. Her only responsibilities were to keep the logistics end of things running efficiently. It was mostly just a lot of paperwork, but it was worth the trouble and tedium for the opportunity to see friends from the retreat again and to bond with alumni from other years.
In a way Sarah missed those days. Things changed so drastically when she turned 21 and transitioned to the senior staff. For the first time she was in charge of a small group of students, tasked with setting the tone for the retreat, mediating discussions, and making sure her students got as much as they could out of this week. She’d come a long way from the painfully shy eighteen year old who had first attended this conference, but was still intimidated by this kind of leadership.
The retreat had a plan to support new staff members. Each first year senior-staffer was apprenticed to a more experienced staff member. At the end of the day, the pairs would discuss how things had gone and the mentor would provide feedback.
She had asked to be apprenticed to Greg, a man she had looked up to since her first year, and was thrilled when he had agreed.
Sarah smiled at the memory of her shock when he had laid out in plain terms the first night that his mentoring process included punishment. Spanking, she corrected herself. Even years later she still struggled just saying the word in her own head. Then again, he had given her plenty of opportunity to back out. She may not have known exactly what she was getting herself into, but she had been warned as best she could have been.
Under Greg’s guidance, she managed not to bumble too much through my first year on staff. She also didn’t manage to sit down too much that week, but the end product had been worth it, both in terms of the success of her students and her deepened friendship with Greg.
Which brought her back to the hallway outside Greg’s room, waiting for him to finish with his newest mentee. In her fifth year on staff, she was well beyond the end of the formal mentoring program. However, some habits were hard to break, and she had long since realized that she could benefit from Greg’s continued guidance. It might be better for her bottom if he would help her break the habit of needing his support, she thought as she checked her watch, not wanting to concede even to herself that she might be enjoying these encounters. It was late, and while she knew she should get to bed there were some things more important than sleep. Still, she couldn’t help the selfish wish that he would get on with it so she could enter.
After several more minutes, the door opened and a rather skittish Lauren emerged. Not that it took much for Lauren to look skittish; a slight girl who looked like she might be bowled over by a gust of wind, she was one of the most fidgety people Sarah had ever known. Lauren glanced up at her with widened eyes, shocked to find someone outside the door. She turned around as if to go the other way, and on seeing the dead end of the hallway turned back to Sarah with an even more alarmed look as she quickly tried to brush past down the corridor.
Sarah caught her arm as she tried to whisk by. “What’s the hurry? Late for something?” she joked, knowing that there was nothing for any of the staff to do until just before breakfast the next morning. This morning, she mentally corrected herself again, as it was well after midnight.
Lauren froze, turning her face away as she burst into tears.
Sarah, taken by surprise, folded the younger girl into a close hug, gently stroking her hair as she cried. She knew that Greg’s ministrations often left his mentees rather emotional, but this was a first.
It was several minutes before Lauren’s choking sobs abated and she calmed down enough to speak.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” Sarah asked, as her hands continued to stroke Lauren’s trembling back.
“He. . . he took me and . . . I wasn’t. .. I didn’t know. . .” Lauren stuttered.
“I know,” Sarah consoled softly.
Lauren broke from her arms and shot her a look of pure terror. “You heard?” she choked out.
“Well, yes, there’s that. But I was apprenticed to Greg myself a few years back. Still am, if you catch my drift. I know what his kind of mentoring entails,” Sarah said with a wink.
Lauren’s trembling stopped as she mulled over this new information
“I was warned, as I assume you were, that his methods were intense. I remember the directors recommended a few others that I might have found easier to work with before approving the pairing. I didn’t give more than a passing thought to their cautions. Looking back, I realize they was basically telling me what I was getting myself into, but I was too excited to notice or care. I’d admired Greg ever since I came here as a student, and wasn’t about to be dissuaded.”
Seeing Lauren’s rapt attention, she continued, “Our first mentoring session was eye-opening to say the least. I was thoroughly exhausted, having travelled half way across the country to get to the retreat that morning. I struggled to keep my eyes open during the staff briefing. I was almost dreading the hour set aside for mentoring; I had so much work to do to prepare for the next day. At the same time I was excited to see Greg and have some time alone with him. Almost immediately after I got to his room that night, he asked about my preparation for the retreat- the preparation I’d left until that night. He was disappointed to say the least, a disappointment he made very clear to my bottom.”
“You mean he. . ” Lauren started to ask.
“Yes, he. . .spanked me.” Sarah stammered, sharing a half smile with Lauren as she struggled to say the word aloud. “I can’t say I wasn’t surprised, I’d been warned that his methods were unconventional. It’s not as though the directors could say more without giving it all away. They had to trust him to feel me out and make sure I was open to his particular kind of guidance.”
“And you were? Open, that is?” Lauren asked.
“I guess so. I mean, not while it was happening. During the. . . ‘process’ I would have given anything to be mentored by someone else. But I trusted him. I was so nervous the first time, I’m not sure how he was able to tell that it would be ok, but I’m very glad he did. He was a very effective mentor for me. I’m not sure what kind of staff member I would have become without his guidance.”
As if on cue, Greg’s door opened. “Sarah, I can hear you out there What’s taking so long? It’s been forever since I’ve finished with Laur- Lauren? What are you still doing here?” Greg asked as he poked his head out into the corridor.
Sarah felt Lauren stiffen in her arms as she tried unsuccessfully to answer the simple question.
“We were just talking” Sarah offered.
“At this hour? About what? ” Greg asked, genuinely confused.
Lauren tried to answer, but couldn’t stop her tears from returning, rendering her speech incomprehensible. Sarah tightened her embrace and Greg joined in their hug, quickly gaining a general impression of the conversation he’d missed. Gradually, Lauren’s sobs abated, and the broke apart their hug enough to sit more comfortably on the floor.
“When I ask if you are ok after a spanking, that would be a good time for us to have this kind of breakdown.” Greg said gently. “Trust me, it’s much easier in my room than out in the corridor.”
“I know, but I said yes. You asked if I knew you would spank me and I said yes. I didn’t know- I didn’t want. . .” Lauren trailed off.
“I know the first time is difficult,” Greg said encouragingly, “that’s why I spend so much time up front explaining what is going to happen, even though it’s awkward. I need to be as sure as I can that you’re willing to proceed. There are some who would prefer other approaches to the mentoring process, though they may not realize this until after the first session. There’s no shame in that. In your case it looks like I moved on a bit too quickly, and I take full responsibility for that.”
“No one can really prepare you for this until you experience it,” Sarah chimed in. “Sure, they can tell you what a spanking is, but there is so much more to process than just the physicality of it. A good spanking forces you to confront parts of yourself that you’d rather ignore, and I know from experience that Greg’s a master at that”
“But there are other, more gentle ways of delivering the same message. If you would prefer that, I can speak to the directors in the morning and we can work out a new pairing for you tomorrow,” Greg added.
Lauren looked truly terrified for the first time, bolting upright in Greg’s lap. “No! I mean, I think that’s why I didn’t want to talk, you know, afterwards. I do want to continue. I didn’t want you to think I was whimping out.”
Greg smiled knowingly. “Your first year as staff, it’s rather like being a student again. There is a lot to learn, and most of it is about yourself. I can help you, just like I helped Sarah, but this won’t work unless you open up to me. There are two people involved in the spanking process, and I need your feedback just as much as you need mine. It’s fine if you don’t quite understand what you’re feeling. It’s fairly common at first. But we still need to talk things through. Can you do that dear?” Greg asked kindly.
“Will I see you again tomorrow?” Greg asked.
“Yes, sir” Lauren replied steadily, holding his gaze.
“Good girl. Now run along. Don’t you have enough work to do tonight?” Greg smiled at he ushered her off to her own room.
Lauren nodded and scampered off, leaving Greg and Sarah in the otherwise deserted corridor.
“Won’t you come in? You and I have much to discuss,” Greg said as he ushered Sarah into his room.