A new chapter of Getting (it) with the Program
Girlfriend? Her mentor had a girlfriend? Claire struggled to process this information as she looked back and forth between Katherine and Mike.
“Is something the matter?” Mike asked, looking slightly concerned.
“N-no, nothing,” Claire managed. “I just remembered something I forgot. I mean, I have to go.” Leaving her half-beer abandoned, she snatched up her purse and bolted for the door, not looking back to see Mike start after her only to be held back by Katherine’s gentle grip.
Claire pulled off the road half way home, unable to see the street through her tears. How could he do this? After all they had been through together, how had he never told her? No- he shouldn’t have needed to tell her, she should have seen this coming. He had never given any indication otherwise, had he? No, all the signs she thought he was giving, all the time she thought he was interested in her, it was all in her head. As usual. She should have known better than to allow herself to fall for her old nonsense yet again.
Still sniffling, she dried her eyes and pulled back into traffic, barely holding herself together until she reached the safety of her apartment. She threw herself onto her bed and sobbed.
The next morning, Claire came into work to find a meeting request from Mike waiting for her. Snarling, she deleted it. The lady in the next cube gave her an odd look but remained silent. Odd growls were not unheard of in the cube farm, though that level of frustration didn’t usually occur so early in the morning.
The day passed in a blur. She had never been so grateful for the mindlessness of data entry. She had been rather irritated when a colleague had dropped off a massive lab notebook earlier that week with the request that she transcribe the data into a spreadsheet, but in her current frame of mind she found the task comforting. As five pm came and went, she lingered in her cubicle, knowing that as soon as she shut off the computer that her mind would be free to ponder things she’d rather not think about.
“You’re late. Is everything ok?” Mike’s voice drew her out of the ordered world of cells.
“It’s fine. I’m busy,” Claire snipped.
“Late night ahead of you?”
“Yes,” she kept her eyes on her monitor.
“Let’s go grab coffee, then. My treat,” Mike offered, extending a hand to help her up from the stopped code-monkey posture in which she had spent the last several hours.
Claire finally turned toward him, ready to have a go at him, but stopped at the sincere and concerned look in his eyes. Her argument died in her throat as she allowed him to draw her away from her desk and off to the coffee shop.
Nothing more was said until they both had steaming cups and were heading back to the office. Instead of walking back through the door, Mike continued along the block, his pace leisurely. As if on auto-pilot, Claire followed him.
“I’m sorry about last night,” he started.
“You should be- why didn’t you tell me about her?” Claire’s anger started to bubble to the surface again.
“That wasn’t what I was referring to. I guess I’m sorry for that as well, but, to be fair, you never asked. I don’t see that my involvement with Katherine has any bearing on my mentoring. Anyway, we’ll get to Katherine in a minute. I was apologizing for allowing your punishment last night to progress the way it did. I never intended for you to have to completely undress. I thought I was making a joke, but when you complied I couldn’t think of a way to tell you that without just embarrassing you further. I talked it over with Katherine last night, and she was . . .highly amused that I didn’t see the kind of mixed signals I was sending.”
“I bet she was amused,” Claire huffed imagining the girl she had thought was a new friend laughing with Mike at her expense.
“I wasn’t being sarcastic,” Mike continued gently. “She knows from first hand experience what my mentoring entails and could see how things ended up how they did. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I just wanted to not make things any worse for you, but she pointed out that you may have inferred more than I intended from that remark. One thing you need to understand is that guys, even us sensitive ones, don’t think like girls. We’re really very simple creatures, taking things as they seem rather than trying to read through multiple layers of meaning. We sometimes- most of the time- need you to spell things out for us.”
Clare was silent as the walked on. Not sensing a reply coming from her any time soon, Mike continued, “Katherine knows what I do- what we do together. Probably better than most. When she started, I was her mentor. Still am, in fact. She knows how I punish you, she knows that there are very intimate feelings involved, but she also knows that I will keep the focus on the punishment with you. Of course there are undertones, but that isn’t the point of a mentoring relationship.”
“How? When we meet, I’m all. . .you know,” Claire fumbled for words before Mike spared her.
“There are lines that I don’t cross with my mentees. A crude analogy, but it’s rather like sexual tension in advertising. The energy is there, but only to further another purpose. It’s a purely professional relationship. With Katherine, those lines become a little blurred,” Mike admitted somewhat sheepishly. “Believe me, the transition from a pure mentoring relationship to something more intimate was far from smooth. It took a lot of trust and forgiveness from both of us, and a lot of communication,” he added with a pointed look. “I could tell that she wasn’t as put off by her punishments as my previous mentees were, she seemed to look forward to our sessions. To be honest, I started to feel the same way. With her, it was more than just one more meeting at the end of the day. It was a responsibility, but a much easier one to bear. So we talked about it.
“You and her seem similar in that regard. Of all my mentees, you two were the only ones who seemed to almost enjoy the spankings.”
“I do not enjoy them!” Claire snapped, her anger rekindling.
“All right, fine. Maybe ‘enjoy’ was the wrong word. With the others, I think they saw that particular aspect of the program as something between an inconvenience and a joke. The spankings were effective, they must have been if they stayed with the program, but none of the others would have actually requested one. None of the others ever felt that they were needed, per se.”
“So, what, are you trying to say we’re some sort of freaks?” Claire muttered with gritted teeth.
“No, of course not, just that there is a certain part of you that the spankings help reach, and that that part needs regular attention. Talk to Katherine, I have no doubt she’d do a much better job of explaining all this.”
“You want me to talk to your girlfriend? About spankings?” Claire asked incredulously.
“Unless Katherine was lying, which she should know better than to try, that’s what you two were doing before I showed up last night, isn’t it?” Mike asked calmly.
“That was different!”
“Because. . .” Claire paused. Why was it different now? “Because I didn’t know,” she finished feebly.
“She knows that I’ve had mentees both before and after her, and she knows that what I do with them does not make what we have any less special. Nor does what I have with Katherine make my relationships with my mentees any less special. I hope you feel the same way. Just because I’m dating Katherine doesn’t make me any less concerned about you, it doesn’t make me any less responsible for your mentoring, and doesn’t make me care about you any less.”
Mike stopped and turned her to face him. “The question is, given everything that happened yesterday, do you want to continue our relationship? Or would you rather request a new mentor?”
Claire’s eyes widened, releasing the tears that had gathered in the corners. Although only that morning she would have been happy to never see him again, the idea of continuing on with someone else was unthinkable. What chance did she have of finding another mentor with Mike’s firm patience and understanding? “No,” she said more calmly than she’d managed so far that night, “I’d like to continue with you.” She trusted him, she realised. Although she had doubted that trust last night, everything he had said since then only helped rebuild that trust. He was right, this sort of thing took patience and understanding. And communication, she grimaced. She knew she would need help with that part, and knew in what form that help was likely to come.
Mike treated her to a broad smile as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “I’m glad, I would have hated to give you up. Though now that that’s behind us, I think we need to have a different kind of discussion.”
Although he spoke kindly, Claire’s insides knotted at the implication. “Why?” she asked, alarmed.
“You tell me,” he said evenly. “Think back over the last twenty-four hours. Given our new understanding of the importance of communication, what should you have handled differently?
He let the silence stretch on until Claire replied. “I shouldn’t have ran out on you,” she finally offered, “but what was I supposed to do, make a scene in the bar?”
“You could try keeping your emotions in check and discussing things logically. You seem quite capable of doing so in most other aspects of your job,” he paused to let Claire bask for a moment in the subtle praise before continuing. “It was a stressful situation, I know. I’ve apologized for my role in what happened, but what about you? Would you prefer to let it go unaddressed?” he asked.
Claire’s gave him only silence in reply. Maybe he was right, she thought, maybe this was something she needed. Though if that was the case, he was also right in that she wasn’t ready to admit it, though she’d never tell him that.
He interpreted her lack of response for the concession that it was, and lead her up to the conference room. Once there, he closed the door and instructed her to get ready, gesturing to her pants.
“You still want me bare?” Claire asked, shocked.
“Yes, bare,” Mike said sternly. “I need to see what I am doing to you, and the embarrassment is part of the process. I won’t tell you that I don’t enjoy it,” he added with a shy smile, “but you can trust me to stay professional. I have so far, and that won’t change- at least not without a great deal more discussion, and I don’t think any of us are in the mood for that right now.”
Claire nodded in agreement as she lowered her clothing.
“I’ll give you the choice, as this will be a light punishment,” Mike said. “Would you prefer to go over the table or over my lap?”
Claire considered. The table was more typical, something she had grown used to. She thought back to her experience the previous night. His lap felt more secure, more personal. But what would Katherine think? She studied his face carefully. He was giving her the choice, and he had said to trust him that Katherine knew what they were doing and that she approved.
“I’ll go over your lap,” she said so quietly it was barely audible.
Mike smiled and gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze as she lowered herself into position. Once settled, she allowed herself to relax a little. She knew her position would grow increasingly uncomfortable, so she might as well enjoy the closeness while she could.
The spanking started much as it had the day before, with slow, firm slaps to the meat of her bottom that were almost soothing. Before long, though, the pain started to build and made Claire twitch slightly with each impact.
Mike paused before Claire’s squirming had a chance to truly get started. “How are you feeling?” he asked as he rested his hand on her bottom.
“W-what?” Claire gasped out as she lay panting over his knee.
“This spanking is for lack of communication, so this seems as good a time as any for you to practice. How are you feeling?” he asked again with a sharp slap.
“Sore,” she grudgingly offered. Mike waited another moment before treating her to a flurry of slaps that left her squealing.
“Let’s try that again. If you want to continue on with me, you’ll need to get better at telling me how you feel. I know that things will get complicated, and I’ll do my best to help you sort through them. However, if you don’t open up and tell me how you feel, there’s not much I can do to help you.”
“I guess,” she acquiesced.
A few harder slaps later Mike paused again. “I’m waiting. How do you feel?”
Claire took a deep breath and tried to gather her thoughts. “Still sore,” she started with the obvious, “and a little silly.”
“Very good. I guess I’m doing at least that part right. What else?” he prompted with another pair of spanks.
“I don’t know. Not really happy, but I’m not as angry as I was earlier. And, for the record, I am most certainly not enjoying this.”
“Much better,” Mike chucked, “just a bit more then.”
Claire braced herself for the finale as Mike started up once more. Despite her best efforts, she was sniffling slightly before he was finished. Mike let her lay over his lap for a few moments before standing her up for a parting hug.
As she repositioned her clothing to leave, Mike tore off the corner of a sheet from his notebook and handed it to her.
“What’s this?’ Claire asked as she took the folded paper.
“Katherine’s number. I’m not saying you have to talk to her, but she said she enjoyed your talk last night- until you left, that is- and would be more than willing to help you along as things come up. If my assumption about the similarities between you two is correct, I know things will come up sooner or later, and it might help to have someone other than me to talk to. Besides, if you’re concerned about what she thinks of our sessions here, you can talk to her directly. That should give you more reassurance than anything I say for my own self-serving, chauvinistic interests,” he said with a wink.
Claire pocketed the paper. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of the offer, but knew that for the time being she had enough to think about and would prefer some time alone. She thought about it all the way home, and by the time she arrived had changed her mind. Setting down her things on the kitchen counter, she rummaged through her purse for her phone.