Kelsey wasn’t sure if she was grateful for Danny’s presence or not, but that did not stop her from squeezing his hand as tightly as she could as she watched the elevator display slowly count upwards. All too soon it reached 14. The doors opened and he lead her out without so much as a backward glance, though he didn’t let go of her hand. It was a small comfort, but she would take what she could get. It wasn’t as though there was anyone else she could turn to at this point.
It had been the same way the night he had picked her up from the police station. She had initially planned to call her parents, though at the last minute decided to phone her boyfriend instead. She didn’t particularly want to tell him what she had been up to, but it was better than telling her parents. If any of her other partners in crime had been caught they wouldn’t have had the choice. Being the oldest and therefore the first of the girls to turn eighteen came with certain benefits, though at that moment she would much rather had been the fastest instead. Even just the second-fastest would have been sufficient; everyone else had made it through the hole in the fence before the police came around the corner, leaving only Kelsey to arrest.
The police had offered to be lenient if she gave the names of the rest of the party, but she had refused. Despite her indignation at being left behind, it still didn’t feel right to get her supposed friends in trouble. She had second thoughts as she stood before the judge to receive her sentence, though it was far too late by that point. It hadn’t even been her idea. She hadn’t even really participated, as her artistic skills were not much better than her running. She had jumped at the chance to be included though, and was happy to pass out the cans of spray paint and keep watch, another thing at which she wished she had been just a bit more proficient.
She’d learned much over the last few weeks, though. None of her friends had shown her the slightest support, no one except for Danny. Even though it was clear that he disapproved of her participation in the prank, Danny had been there for her in the aftermath. He had even offered to drive her to court, and when she had refused he had followed her on the bus, slipping in the door unnoticed by her in the throngs of the morning rush hour. She had been staring at the courthouse from the side walk when she was startled by a hand on her shoulder. Turning around, she saw Danny, his face grave and concerned. With a squeeze, he lead her inside and took a seat beside her to wait.
The proceedings had been brief but sufficiently nerve-wracking. The arresting officer gave his report, making it sound as though graffiti-ing a school was almost as bad as murder. The judge was no better, making it clear to Kelsey that people could very well go to jail for heinous crimes such as this. However, given her age and otherwise clean record, local law offered an alternative. Although the idea of corporal punishment terrified Kelsey, it didn’t terrify her nearly as much as the possibility of jail time, and she quickly agreed. The judge dismissed her, saying he would work out the details with the court officer, and that she would receive notice by post with the details of her punishment.
Kelsey was careful to be the first in her family to check the post box for the next two weeks until it finally came. She read the letter carefully, though it didn’t reveal much of what was to happen. She ticked one of the boxes listed for available appointments and signed the waiver. One last blank line gave her pause: “Name of Witness.”
She brought the subject up the next day after classes when she managed to flag Danny down on his way out to the parking lot.
“Do you have a moment?” she asked hesitantly.
“Always,” he replied nonchalantly. “What’s up?”
“Um. . . it’s kinda personal. Do you think we could head somewhere a bit more private?” she asked, shifting her weight from side to side as if ticking away the seconds until the awkward conversation would be over.
“Sure,” he said, changing direction to head to an unused classroom. Closing the door behind them, he fixed her with a concerned look and repeated, “What’s up?”
“Well, do you remember what happened? At the . . you know. . . court house?” Kelsey asked.
“Not something I could forget in a hurry. Or you either, I’d imagine. I still can’t believe you’d allow yourself to get mixed up in something like that. What were you thinking?”
“I don’t know! I thought it would be a bit of fun, and it was . . . kind of. I felt like I was finally fitting in, until. . .” Kelsey trailed off as she remembered how the rest of the girls had abandoned her. “Anyway, I need to bring a witness for the. . .”
“The spanking?” Danny offered.
Kelsey could only nod, blush, and stare at her feet.
“Come on, it won’t be that bad. It’s not jail time. Or the death penalty,” Danny attempted to cheer her.
“It might as well be,” Kelsey murmured.
“You don’t mean that. Really, the whole thing seems rather funny when you think about it. Didn’t the judge say something of the effect of ‘it’s a well-deserved punishment and a smacked bottom will do you good?’ What a cliche.”
“Cliche or not, it’s still embarrassing when it’s directed at you,” Kelsey blushed. “Anyway, I’ve scheduled . . . it . . .for 4pm next Saturday. Will you do it? Will you come?”
“Of course,” Danny assured her with a quick hug but no further words of encouragement or condolence, no typical light-hearted quip to change the mood. Although she appreciated the gesture, she urgently wanted to be anywhere but in a classroom discussing her impending punishment with her boyfriend. She quickly thanked him as she hustled out the door.
On her way home, she noted that this was the most they had spoken since this ordeal had begun. He had been remarkably quiet through the whole experience, especially considering his usual boisterous attitude. Even though everyone would agree his appearance was a bit quirky, he was nearly constantly surrounded by a crowd of admirers, and always up for a bit of fun. Kelsey smiled as she remembered how they had smuggled a live frog into Miss. Tate’s biology class, releasing it just as the class was opening the shrink-wrapped packages of formaldehyde-soaked specimens to dissect. The chaos that ensued had been nothing short of hilarious, and, with the whole class howling with laughter before long, had left the startled teacher without a shred of evidence as to who the perpetrators may have been.
He usually seemed so light and happy; she thought it perfectly fitting that he had kept calling himself “Danny” even when the rest of their classmates had gradually left the nicknames of childhood behind. It was the thing that had attracted her to him in the first place. She remembered swearing to her parents back when she was ten that she would never date a football player, but had gladly forked over the five dollars she’d bet them when Danny turned up the first time to take her out to the movies. If only her father hadn’t had to mention it in front of him! Danny had taken it in stride though, chuckling just enough to earn her parents’ approval but not so much as to embarrass her further.
Recently though, he had been downright dour. Kelsey worried more than a little that it may have something to do with her.
Kelsey fidgeted in her chair and looked around. The waiting room looked like it might have been attached to a dentist’s office, with nothing to give away its more sinister function. They’d been waiting here how long? Ten, fifteen minutes? There was no clock and she hadn’t thought to bring a watch. Making her wait for weeks between the sentence and its execution was bad enough, but this had to be classified as cruel and unusual.
“Kelsey Murtaugh!” she heard her name called out. Suddenly the wait didn’t seem quite so bad. Danny helped her to her feet and lead her over to the open door. A short, stout woman in a lab coat with a clipboard waited for her at the door. “This is your witness?” she asked, looking Danny up and down.
“Yes,” Kelsey squeaked out.
“Very well, come with me.” She whisked them off down the corridor. Opening a door, she motioned Danny inside and told him to have a seat. Kelsey moved to follow, but the woman caught her arm. “Not you. We need to go through a bit of preparation with you first. You’ll join him in a minute. Follow me.” With one last look back at Danny, she followed the woman down the corridor to a door at the far end.
“In here,” the woman said gruffly. “Choose a jumpsuit and get changed. It should be the only thing you are wearing, and I do mean the only thing. The regulations state that all offenders should be attired identically for punishment.” The woman made no move to leave, and although Kelsey desperately wanted to ask her to do so, she knew better. Turning her back, she selected a garment from the shelf labeled “medium” and changed into it as quickly as she could. It was a bit loose, but she didn’t want to extend her experience by taking the time to change again. Kelsey shivered, and tried to convince herself it was just because of the light, course fabric of the jumpsuit or perhaps the cold tiles under her bare feet.
“Leave your things here and follow me,” the woman commanded as she lead her back down the hallway to yet another room. This one resembled a medical office, and Kelsey sat as directed on the examination table. The woman quickly and efficiently measured her pulse, blood pressure, and other vital signs without speaking except to bark basic instructions, making diligent notes on her clipboard all the while. Although every procedure was the same as when she visited the doctor, the garish fluorescent color of her garment and the woman’s harsh manner gave her no room to imagine that this was anything other than part of her punishment for criminal activity.
“You are fit for punishment,” she declared, as if to confirm Kelsey’s fears, and ushered her back down the corridor to the room where they had left Danny. Kelsey was only mildly surprised to see a man she recognized as the bailiff from her sentencing sitting beside Danny in the other chair. The only other piece of furniture in the room was a steel contraption that resembled a sawhorse with several ominous-looking straps hanging off each sturdy leg.
Kelsey shivered as the woman moved over to a camera mounted on an otherwise barren wall, switched it on, and began reading from her clipboard. She quickly recited the details of Kelsey’s case number and the charges against her before finishing with her sentence, “It is the decision of the court that you shall receive 30 strokes with the number seven punishment strap. Are these details correct as I have read them and do you agree to submit to the punishment determined for your case?”
Realizing she was waiting for her to reply, a quivering Kelsey managed to croak out a quiet, “Yes.”
The woman lead her over to the imposing contraption, helped her over, and moved to fasten the first strap around her left wrist.
“Do you have to?” Kelsey asked, hating the pleading quality in her voice.
“You may choose to remain unrestrained, but if you move or otherwise interfere with your punishment, the county will not be liable for any injury you sustain. You will then have the option of returning to court for an alternate sentence or you will be restrained and the punishment will recommence from the beginning. How would you like to proceed?” the woman asked, sounding as though she had uttered these words so many times they had almost lost meaning for her.
Kelsey pondered and the silence stretched on. “Let her do her job, Kells,” she heard Danny prompt softly from behind her.
“I guess you can tie me down,” Kelsey said, squeezing her eyes shut and pretending to be somewhere else. She couldn’t even get very far in her mind as the straps tightly bound her to the present moment.
She opened her eyes to see the woman take some sort of semi-flexible strap from the wall. She wondered what it was made of. Rubber? Leather? What would hurt more?
A sudden crack and blaze across her bottom brought an abrupt end to her musings as her attention was transferred from the instrument to the effect it was having on her. She grit her teeth. This was just one stroke, how was she going to survive thirty?
As the next stroke fell, she realized that there would have been no chance she could make it through this without trying to protect her behind if her hands were free. She sent silent thanks to Danny for persuading her to allow the woman to restrain her, though that was the last thing she did silently for a while. At the third stroke she emitted a sharp yelp, a vocalization she repeated for the next several blows before gradually shifting to a more constant moan. She tried to keep count, but didn’t even make it to ten before she became much more concerned with the growing pain than with the progress of the punishment.
Although the back of her mind had been wondering for a while when it would be over, thinking that she must have reached 30 strokes by now, it still took her by surprise when the woman declared her punishment complete, loudly so that it could be heard over her sobs. The woman continued on saying something official-sounding for several minutes, but Kelsey had stopped paying attention once the punishment had been declared complete. The woman then released the straps.
Kelsey had no more than staggered to her feet before the woman shoved the clipboard in her face, asking her to sign to attest to completion of the punishment. Kelsey wiped away here tears enough to make sure she signed on the proper line before quickly handing it back. She returned her attention to wiping the tears from her face, wondering just how much more the woman could possibly need to do now that it was over when Danny’s voice startled her.
“Who is ‘John Smith?” he asked, pointing at the name printed under the “witness” signature line and giving her an odd look.
Kelsey stuttered, taking a sudden interest in her bare feet. “He- he’s no one. I didn’t know if you would agree to come so I . . .” she trailed off, pleading with her eyes that he would let the matter drop.
He was still looking at her with an uncharacteristic sternness when the woman piped up. “You’re lucky I’ve already signed,” she scolded. “Otherwise I would have been well within my rights to add a few extra strokes for falsification of legal documents. As it stands, I’m willing to let it slide, but there will be a note in your record for this and your next disciplinarian may not be so lenient.”
“Oh, I assure you,” Danny said without taking his eyes off Kelsey, “we will most certainly be discussing this later and there will definitely not be a next time.”
Despite the threat in in voice, he tenderly took her hand and lead her back down the hall to change. As Kelsey sniffled in his car on their way home, she decided that she was glad she had asked him to accompany her. Despite his silence on the ride, and despite her anxiety over the promised discussion, she couldn’t imagine going through this with anyone else.
To be continued