Eliza sifted through her closet full of memories and garments that had long passed their prime. She had woken up in a “pitch it” mood, and had long ago learned to capitalize on such moments. It was late November, but that was no reason not to do a bit of spring cleaning. Besides, autumn had always seemed like a better time for such things. She had never lost the association of this particular season with the start of the new school year, and still bought herself a new notebook each time the back-to-school sales started. It was the perfect time of year to take inventory and decide which pieces were no longer necessary. At the very end of the closet rail, she found The Dress. A faded yellow number, it hadn’t been worn in years. She smiled as she took it down, remembering all too clearly the gamut of emotions she, and Ben for that matter, had experienced of the day it had joined her collection.
The sunny Sunday afternoon was perfect and peaceful, a marked contrast to the roiling of thoughts in Eliza’s mind as she returned with her purchase. There were seven traffic lights between the shopping center and their starter home, and she had nearly turned around at each of them. Eliza knew she shouldn’t have bought the dress, it was more than her entire month’s budget, but it had been ages since she had last allowed herself this kind of indulgence- not since they had signed the mortgage and moved out of the cramped apartment. Even the lady behind the cash register had sensed her conflicted emotions, but as a good salesperson had managed to talk her into the sale. Yes, it was all her fault, Eliza thought to herself as she sat at traffic light number three and cursed the innocent-looking smiling blonde who had gotten her into this mess.
Ben wouldn’t see it that way, she realized as she stopped at the next light and glared over at the package in the passenger’s seat. No, he would place the blame squarely on her, and would be deaf to any excuses she tried to make. He was an expert at making her see truth. Annoying and painful as it sometimes was, she had to admit that it was part of the reason she had married him. Besides, even when he was delivering bad news or forcing her to face a side of herself she would rather ignore, he always did so lovingly. She would keep the dress, she decided. He would understand, and, even if he didn’t, it wouldn’t be so bad.
Almost immediately after this decision, she began to feel guilty for taking advantage of his kindhearted nature. She got as far as moving into the left lane to make a U-turn before rethinking her decision. The dress was purchased, she would need to confess anyway. Whatever she did, her guilt would surely read on her face and she would spurt out her confession at the first hint of a raised eyebrow when Ben came home from his fishing trip. She was already in trouble, she may as well keep the dress that had gotten her there.
He would probably make her return it, she thought sadly as she parked the car in the house’s short drive. Impulsively, she reached over and tore the tags from the dress. There, she thought, no going back now. Her sense of triumph lasted a full five seconds before she burst into tears right in the driver’s seat of her car. Ben found her there when he returned home. She was no longer crying, but the mascara streaks down her cheeks were clearly visible. As he opened her door and knelt down to hug her, the tears returned. She buried her face in his shoulder and allowed him to carry her into the house.
A cup of tea and a long cuddle later, he finally asked her what was wrong. Just as she predicted, her confession came pouring from her lips. She stared into her empty cup the entire time, not wanting to see his face darken. The tension she felt in the arm he had draped around her shoulders was enough of an indication of his mood. Its weight was still there, and still comforting, but the subtle shift in its posture told her that she had hurt him deeply, and prompted yet another round of crying. He pulled her into a full hug and held her until she once again settled down.
When she raised her head to finally look at him, he simply said, “Go to bed. I’ll be up shortly.” Although it was only early evening, she didn’t think to argue as she trod off to their room. He turned on the kettle again for another cup of tea, and settled down with the newspaper, trying to distract himself as he worked out how to deal with the latest crisis in their union. After several long moments, he drained his mug and went upstairs to find her lying face down with her paddle out on the bedside table.
She waited with her head in the pillow, but listened carefully to his footsteps as he approached the bed. She had expected to hear the soft scrape as he picked up the paddle, but instead felt the bed shift as he sat down next to her.
“I won’t be spanking you tonight,” he said gently as he stroked her back. “With all your worrying you’ve clearly punished yourself enough for today, but you’re not off the hook completely. You wanted that dress so badly that you made sure you would be able to keep it, and keep it you shall. I’m sure it’s a beautiful dress if it warranted all of this. Did it ever occur to you that if you simply asked me I may have allowed it?” She had turned to look at him, she truly hadn’t considered that option. In the glaringly bright lights of the store, it seemed she had only one choice, but now she felt very foolish indeed. He smiled at her look of shock and comprehension.
“I considered asking you to try to return it anyway, or donate it if you couldn’t, but that seemed unnecessary. We’ve been very frugal lately, and you deserve a bit of a treat. I just wish you had handled the matter a bit differently,” he said as he helped her up off the bed and into his arms. Tilting her chin up to force her to look into is loving but stern gaze, he continued steadily, “You can keep the dress. However, every time you wear it I will spank you, and it won’t be the kind of spanking we enjoy. I want you to be happy, but I want you to respect our arrangement, and to trust that I have your best interest- our best interest- at heart.”
She nodded slowly, relieved that he wasn’t angry, and wondering why she had ever thought to try to defy him. He tenderly helped her into bed and snuggled beside her. Although they didn’t indulge in any of their usual nocturnal activities that night, she had never felt so close to him.
Her feeling of contentment lasted well into the next day, though the small kernel of guilt at the pit of her stomach continued to gnaw away at it. By the end of the work day, she was fidgeting uneasily at her desk. As soon as the clock struck five, she bolted for the door, determined to head out before the rush hour traffic thickened.
She arrived home in record time, and dashed up to their bedroom to retrieve the dress from the closet. Although Ben pulled into the drive only a few minutes later, he opened the front door to find his young wife in the corner wearing her new dress, with the paddle set out on the coffee table for him.
He paused momentarily before closing the door behind him and making hs way over to the sofa. Sitting down, he called her over to him. She had come willingly, and without another word he tipped her over his knee, lifted her skirt, and began to spank her. He started slowly, letting each slap of his hand resonate before adding another. It was almost relaxing, but part of her wished that he would just get on with it. She knew this was to be a punishment spanking, and a severe one at that. She forced herself to remain still and quiet as he continued to build the heat in her bottom, the slow pace almost more painful than the slaps.
When she could no longer help but squirm, he stopped and she felt the cool surface of the paddle rest on her behind. “I am very proud of you,” she heard him say, “it took courage to ask for this. I half expected to never see you in this dress. I won’t go easy on you though. You and I both need this to be a punishment we remember.” She didn’t protest, even as the first crack of the paddle caused her to cry out. He was right, as he usually was, though she wouldn’t ever dream of telling him that. Her silent acceptance was proof enough of her trust in his judgement as he continued the punishment.
Before long, the paddle had her twisting her hips in a desperate attempt to evade the steady rain of swats, though she knew this effort was futile. His gentle grip around her waist held her in place, more by reminding her of his desire that she accept this than by physical force. She was sobbing limply by the time he finished, and offered no resistance as he escorted her back to the corner.
She heard him tinkering around in the kitchen, but was too absorbed in her own thoughts to wonder what he might be doing. She was therefore rather surprised when he told her to turn around to see that he had fixed dinner for the two of them, served on the high counter top that separated the kitchen from the dining room rather than the table where they usually ate. “I figured two days in a row without dinner would be considered cruel and unusual,” he said with a half smile. “Besides, I was starving and you must be as well.” He was right, yet again, and she employed her usual method of silence to let him know so. He pulled up a stool for himself, and she stood beside them as the ate together.
Later that night as the cuddled in bed, he asked under cover of darkness, “Is this too much?”
Confused, she rolled over to face him even though she was only able to make out a vague outline of his figure beside her. “Is what too much?” she asked.
“The spankings for the dress.” he explained. Seeing that no response was forthcoming, he elaborated, “We introduced this element into our relationship as a way to put things behind us, though by spanking you every time you wear the dress, that isn’t really the case here. I was very upset that you tried to get around the rules we had set up, but I don’t want you to think that I’ll never forgive you. I already have,” he said as he stroked her cheek.
She was silent for another moment, soaking in his love before offering a rare verbal concession to his wisdom. “I know you have,” she replied, then added more quietly, “I might need reminded every now and again, though.”
The dress went unworn for quite a while after that. It stayed in her closet, a symbol of her shame of her defiance that day, and a symbol of his forgiveness.
The harmony that had been restored by the punishment lasted a good while, though, just as she had predicted, it wasn’t permanent. For weeks it seemed that everything was fine, until they had an argument. Looking back, she couldn’t remember what it was about, but she knew it was more than just who would sweep the kitchen that night. She did remember the guilt though, churning in her stomach as she worked the next day. Just as she had before, she rushed home to make sure she arrived first, mentally preparing her confession on the way. At first she tried to spin things in her head so that it was only a little bit her fault, that she was accepting a tiny portion of the blame but that it was him who had blown this out of proportion. As she rehearsed, she slowly began to come to terms with just how many times she’d had the opportunity to either downplay or completely end the fight. By the time she unlocked the door, she could already feel the tears streaming down her cheeks. She went up to their bedroom to retrieve the paddle from where it lay in the top drawer, where it had rested ever since the dress spanking. She heard his car pull into the drive, and started to head back downstairs. She was halfway to the bedroom door when, on a sudden impulse, she went instead to their closet and quickly slipped into the dress.
This time he came in to find her in the middle of the living room, just setting down the paddle and already sobbing. He quickly closed the door and went over to her, enveloping her in a hug that told her he was just as relieved as she was that the fight was over. He tipped her over his lap again and began slowly spanking just as he did before. He used the paddle, eventually, as he always did for punishment, but the swats were merely symbolic and didn’t hurt much more than his hand. As she stood next to him at dinner, he apologized for his own role in the events of the previous day, and they had gone to bed as happily as they ever had.
The dress continued to come out on occasion over the years. She had surprised him by turning up in it to a dinner party for his company. She had ardently protested earlier that week, claiming that such events were a waste of time and not something she could fit in her schedule. He had relented, but she could tell he was displeased. The broad grin on his face when she turned up in the banquet hall had been well worth the stinging behind she had received when they returned home.
She had also worn the dress to a similarly harrowing dinner with his family, at which she had politely smiled and nodded while internally wishing to go home despite the uncomfortable end to the evening that she knew awaited. The garment was a little too dressy for the occasion, something that did not pass unnoticed or unremarked, but Ben had simply said that the dress had special meaning to them. She knew none of them could guess what that was, but couldn’t stop her blush.
She had worn it once for his birthday. On a year when money had been too tight to allow much of a celebration, she had artfully set their finest dishes out on the counter and tied a bow to his stool before placing herself in the corner to await his arrival.
She took the dress down and ran her fingers over the collar. It’s shameful origins had not exactly been forgotten, though it had served a new purpose for so long that they were simply no longer relevant. As she looked at the dress now, frayed, worn, and several sizes too small, she imagined talking with her twenty-something self on the day the dress had been purchased. Do you really know what you’re buying? It is so much more than just a dress, so much more than a simple act of defiance. Although it seems stifling now, this is hardly the worst thing that will happen to your relationship, hardly the worst trial you will face.
She smiled as she shook the wrinkles out of the old fabric before laying it on the bed. The brilliant color had long since faded to a soft golden hue, perfectly fitting for today’s anniversary. She had already planned a special evening to mark the occasion, but there would be room for one more present, she thought as she placed the paddle next to it. She cheerily walked down the stairs to join him for breakfast, giddily wondering when he would wander upstairs to find what she had left for him.