Paula couldn’t say she hadn’t been warned. They had made it very clear the first night of orientation, all of them did. Her dorm master, her senior buddy, her advisor, even her roommate, for goodness sake, who had no reason to be any more in the know than she did. Perhaps it was ignorance, but more likely any semblance of ignorance was merely a convenient disguise for defiance.
Whatever the reason, the remedy was the same. Nothing drove action like a deadline, particularly a deadline that came with a paddling.
At least she hoped it would be a paddling, Paula thought to herself as she ran a tentative hand over the surface of the paddle, wincing as her fingers caught on the sharp edges and splinters. It was in better condition than it had been the previous evening, though she was all but certain it would still pass muster.
She knew what she was getting herself into, at least on an intellectual level. The college had made it’s policy on motivation and discipline very clear when she had come to the campus last year to visit. She had listened attentively with the rest of the visitors, though at the time the threat of spanking had seemed merely exciting, a bit of spice to campus life. Something to be giggled about and danced around, but hardly something to be feared.
As she sat at her desk now, her first spanking drawing ever closer, Paula wondered whatever she had been thinking. Of course it would happen to her, hadn’t they made it clear that a student had yet to graduate without finding themselves on the wrong end of a paddle at least once? Even still, she’d had enough self-knowledge to know that with her tendencies to procrastination she would hardly find herself in the rarely-spanked club.
Perhaps it was subconscious, she thought to herself. She knew she could benefit from this, that she needed this, but couldn’t bring herself to acknowledge the thought and therefore contrived other reasons and excuses to keep her mind off the truth.
She couldn’t muster up any of those fictions at the moment though, left as she was with the sinking, empty feeling that her impending doom was very much deserved.
She felt a flush of embarrassment as she recalled the previous evening’s inspection in the dorm lounge. They had all been told that the rough-hewn paddles they had been issued upon moving into their new dorm rooms would feature heavily in their lives for the next four years. They were to spend their free time during the orientation period preparing the implements for use and making them their own. It was a long-standing tradition that symbolised the acceptance of the “motivation and discipline” policy, or the paddling policy as it was more commonly referred to, given the typical implement of choice. To Paula, however, the whole ritual felt somewhat perverse, spending time and care on an object that would only serve to cause her pain. She’d put the task from her mind, finding things to do elsewhere whenever her roommate’s attention was turned to preparation of her own paddle, Melissa’s dedication to the task only serving to solidify Paula’s resolve to spend minimal time on her own paddle. Her roommate was the image of obedience, carefully sanding her paddle with a look of concentration on her face, pausing only to gather up the resulting wood dust and deposit it carefully in the bin.
Melissa had tried to encourage her, offering to share supplies and offer feedback, but Paula had left the room in an airy huff, exploring the campus on her own in the fading August evening light and returning only when she could be reasonably sure that Melissa would have desisted in her efforts for the night.
All too soon, inspection day arrived, the final evening of the three-day grace period before the paddling policy would come into force for the new students. All the other girls on her floor had turned out, some more visibly embarrassed than others, with paddles that all but gleaned, some adding personal touches of highly-detailed paintwork and one- Kelsey?- who had painstakingly burned an intricate pattern into the back of hers.
Paula had never considered herself artistic, but still knew she could have managed something comparable to the simple shine of the plain varnish some of the other girls had applied.
Paula had tried to relax as Gerry, the dorm master, worked his way toward her. He seemed so kindly, and so young, no more than ten years older than his charges. It was difficult to imagine him as the disciplinarian his job description proclaimed him to be, particularly as he showered the other girls with compliments, praising their demonstration of acceptance of this new way of living for which they had signed on and sharing his sunny grin generously with each of them. He gave each girl three token pops with her paddle to complete the initiation ritual of sorts, and though some girls yelped playfully, it was clearly all in good fun. It was a ritual of acceptance, rather than punishment, as each girl formally took her place in the student body.
Each except for Paula.
She shuddered as she remembered the disappointment in Gerry’s eyes as he had inspected her paddle the previous evening. She had watched as his face darkened when she presented her work- or lack thereof- and then found herself only able to stare at her shoes.
“This is all but unusable. We’ll talk about this again tomorrow evening,” he said calmly and darkly. “I’ll meet you in your room at seven. I do hope you have something more to show for your efforts at that time. I’ll be sure to come prepared in case you don’t, but you will not enjoy my alternative.”
Gerry carried on with his inspections, quickly returning to his more jovial self as he welcomed and congratulated the last few girls. Paula tried not to watch, wishing she could sink into the floor.
Soon enough, Gerry wrapped up the little gathering. “Well done all, or at least most,” he said, with just a tinge of tension in his voice as he glanced at Paula. “I must warn you, though, that these paddles are meant to be used, and will be used, as instruments of discipline. What you had tonight was just a light taste. I can assure you that from now on I will use them more forcefully, and it will not be as enjoyable an experience.” His gaze lingered on Paula as he dismissed them.
Paula cringed at the threat, light as it was, but still could not yet move herself to do anything about it that evening, tuning to her bed early that night rather than gossip with the rest of the girls in the lounge. She could imagine all too well the dreamy subject of their gossip after the evening’s events; they had no reason to fear the man, at least not yet. Paula had no such luxury.
She had likewise shunned her assignment the next morning, taking herself to the gym and then the library, an excursion that even she had to admit was rather lacking in purpose given that classes had not yet begun and she was in possession of a fully-loaded kindle.
It was late-afternoon when panic finally hit. Gerry’s words that had been pushed to the back of her mind bubbled unbidden to the surface, where they floated like an algal bloom, growing uncontrollably until they blocked out any other thoughts. What was it that he would bring? Her creativity, usually such an asset, now treated her to an endless parade of torture devices.
Paula all but ran back to her room. It wasn’t too late; it couldn’t be too late. There was no time for paint or varnish, but even a good sanding had to be better than nothing. As she burst through her door, she offered silent thoughts of thanks to her absent roommate who had left a selection of sandpapers on her desk yet again- the same offer that she had spurned two days previously.
Paula launched herself into the task, sanding furiously and only sparing an occasional glance at the clock, the red glowing numbers creeping far too quickly towards 7pm. An annoying voice in the back of her mind that the wood used for the paddles was very high quality indeed, taking a good bit of work to smooth and likely to stand up well to frequent use.
Panic set in at ten minutes to go. Paula cast her mind about for other ideas. Would getting it wet help? Any chance one of the girls down the hall had a power sander? Would Gerry notice if she simply coated the thing in wax?
Her gaze fell upon Melissa’s paddle, varnished to a perfect shine, gleaming gloatingly from it’s peg above her bed. Paula took it down to compare to her own, as if she might find some imperfection she could use to reassure herself that her own efforts were not that far behind. Instead she found the comparison only made her own look far worse.
Paula was still running her fingers over the glistening surface of Melissa’s paddle when a soft but persistent knock at her door made her jump. A glance at her desk clock revealed that it was seven o’clock on the dot. She made a mental note to herself of his punctuality as she frantically tried to think of what to do. On impulse, she tossed her own paddle under her bed and went to the door with Melissa’s paddle in hand, grateful on many levels that her roommate had chosen to absent herself on this occasion.
As expected, she found Gerry at the threshold, his expression stern but composed. “May I come in?” he asked evenly.
Paula only nodded, not willing to trust her voice as her heart thudded away. He was here. It was going to happen. It was going to be now.
“You seem to have settled in well,” Gerry remarked as he looked around the room. “You certainly have good taste in literature,” he remarked as he took in her bookshelf stuffed to overflowing with Jim Butcher and Terry Pratchett. Paula managed a slight smile at the praise, remembering how she had almost wished she’d left her books at home as she lugged box after box up the stairs to her dorm.
Gerry had moved on to the collection of photographs she had pseudo-artfully arranged on the wall over her bed, taking her mother’s advice that hanging at oblique angles looked better than something that was trying to be straight and just barely missed. “These are spectacular,” Gerry remarked. “Did you take them yourself?”
Paula nodded again, struggling to reconcile his almost friendly manner with the purpose of his visit.
Perhaps Gerry sensed her discomfort. “Might as well cut to the chase. May I see your paddle?” Paula handed the stolen implement over, not daring to meet his eye lest he see through the deception.
Gerry turned it over, running his hands over the surface as he examined it in silence. “This will do,” he announced simply. “You know what comes next,” he said as he glanced at Paula over the paddle’s edge.
Paula tried to nod again, but in her nervous state couldn’t even bring herself to acknowledge the implied command. Instead she turned her back to him, trembling as she bent over and placed her hands on her bed for balance.
She heard the floorboards creak as Gery moved into position behind her, and squeezed her eyes shut as she felt the paddle lightly tap her behind in preparation.
Her eyes shot open as she heard the pop of the first swat. The noise startled her more than anything at first, but the momentary numbness and shock from the blow faded in an instant and left her gasping at the unfamiliar pain. She had reckoned she was in for rather more than the light swats the other girls had received, but hadn’t thought it would be quite so difficult to bear.
Gerry delivered a second swat before she had quite recovered, propelling Paula a bit forward over her bed as her shaking arms failed to hold her steady. She heard herself emit a small yelp of shock, and clamped her jaw shut, afraid the girls next door might hear. Determined to take her padding as bravely as she could, she took a steadying breath and straightened her arms again for the final swat.
Her resolve was rewarded with the hardest swat yet. Paula felt something like a groan form in her throat, but kept her lips tightly clamped over it as if trying to swallow the pain. She scrunched her hands into fists, her fingers squeezing the blankets of her bed in a vain attempt to transfer the pain somewhere else.
As the worst of the shock passed, she felt a gentle hand stroking her back, and turned her head to see Gerry looking at her with an expression of concern. She tried to turn away from her tormentor, but he gently helped her up and pulled her into a tight hug as she recovered.
“Are you alright?” Gerry asked, breaking the hug to hold her at arms length, searching her face.
“Yes, Sir,” Paula replied, unable to meet the eyes of her disciplinarian.
“It’s Gerry,” he replied lightly. “Sir is fine if you feel the need while you are being disciplined, but when it’s over, it’s just Gerry.”
“Sorry. . .er. . . thank you, Gerry,” Paula mumbled, not sure what the appropriate response was at this point.
Gerry squeezed her shoulders reassuringly before continuing. “I am very disappointed that our first encounter had to be like this. Although my role here is to be a disciplinarian, I see my job as much more than that. Adjusting to life here can be very difficult, particularly as it is the first time most girls have been away from home for any length of time. I don’t just want to be the scary man with the paddle, that’s hardly conducive to settling down and enjoying life here. You need more than that. You need an advisor, a mediator, a friend, and yes, sometimes, a disciplinarian. Those roles aren’t mutually exclusive, and usually the light welcoming paddling at the end of orientation helps establish that. Discipline doesn’t have to be a terrifying, unspeakable thing. It’s a part of life, not something we’re proud of, but there’s no reason to be unduly ashamed of it either. A semi-serious paddling in front of the rest of the hall helps set that mindset, and I’m sorry that you’ve missed it.
“That said, you took your paddling very well, and I’m glad to see that you’ve accepted your role here.” He gave her a smile so warm and genuine that Paula wished she could have accepted it and felt truly welcomed. She hadn’t though, hadn’t truly completed the welcoming ritual, hadn’t truly accepted the way in which she would be disciplined here. The weight of her deception settled on her chest, stifling any response she might have given and forcing tears to start leaking from the corners of her eyes.
She turned away from Gerry to hid her tears. He reached out to her again, but she ducked from his attempt at a hug, falling to her knees and reaching under her bed for the hastily discarded half-polished paddle.
She kept her gaze on the floor, steeling herself for his reaction. A scolding, for sure. Would he yell? Would he force her to feel her own unfinished paddle? The rounded edges of Melissa’s had been bad enough. . .
As the silence stretched on, she couldn’t bear the wait and glanced up at Gerry to find him regarding her as calmly as he had before, entirely unsurprised by the revelation of her deception.
“It takes more than one day to make something like this,” he answered her unspoken question by hefting Melissa’s paddle.
Paula shrugged and returned her gaze to the floor.
“Why?” he asked simply, and Paula bristled.
“I. . .I was afraid, I think,” Paula started. “What would you have done if I hadn’t finished?”
“You would hardly be the first,” Gerry assured her. “Some girls take time to adjust, and frankly I’m a nit surprised that I’m only visiting one of you for this reason tonight. I’ll need to introduce you to Heidi from last year; she took nearly two weeks to produce a satisfactory paddle. Nearly wore out my belt in the process.”
Paula glanced at him in confusion and he continued. “The paddles are more symbolic than anything. Yes, we use them frequently enough, but there are plenty of other ways to get through to a girl. For most, after a single session with my belt their paddles somehow wind up finished with remarkable speed.”
“Oh,” Paula replied simply, raising her gaze to the thick black leather encircling Gerry’s waist and shuddering at the thought of what was in store for her. Deciding it best to not delay any further, she took a deep breath and moved to bend back over the edge of her bed.
Gerry’s arm caught her half way down, and he tipped her chin up to look her in the eye. “I give six for failure to complete assigned work. Six again for lies, deception, or cheating.” He paused to let the words sink in. “You’ve already heard more punishment tonight than I typically give for a welcome spanking, even a delayed one. Had your paddle been finished you would have received barely more than I gave the rest of the girls last night. Under the circumstances, I’m prepared to say you’ve had enough, but only if you agree.” He held her gaze steadily as he waited for her reply.
Paula wanted desperately to look away. It was cruel to make her choose. She tried to channel her earlier defiance, tried to pretend it was that which made her nod and bend over the edge of the bed yet again, anything to avoid acknowledging to herself that she felt she deserved this.
“Six then,” she heard Gerry prononce from behind her, underscored by the soft clink of his buckle and the rustling of leather pulled free from denim loops. “That will be more than enough to take tonight. I’ll be back tomorrow, and we can reassess the situation then.”
Paula felt a wave of relief course through her at the lessened sentence, and straightened her arms as she waited for the first blow to fall.
As the leather cracked onto her behind, Paula knew immediately that she would never have withstood the full twelve. The first stroke of the belt was worse than all of the paddle swats combined, and managed to reignite the latent ache in her bottom and multiply it a thousandfold. The thought of five more was terrifying enough, and she felt her arms begin to quake in their effort to keep her still, to keep her from running.
She felt Gerry’s hand on her back again, a warm steady presence that while hardly a physical restraint did help keep her present, to calm her and allow her to continue.
At the second stroke, she gave up all pretence of being quiet. Her voice rose in a shriek that settled into a sob that continued throughout the rest of the punishment.
She was well and truly exhausted when the sixth stroke was given, and all but collapsed into Gerry’s arms when he helped her up into another warming hug.
When her sobbing abated, he spoke to her softly. “You said you were afraid of the consequences of not finishing your paddle, but I think it was more than that. If you were afraid, you could have dodged this somehow, arranged to be elsewhere, offered some sort of excuse.
“You could have left, you know, some girls do. It seems all fun and games in the brochures, but the reality of holding a paddle in your hand, knowing what it will be used for. That’s why we have this little ritual, to sort out those who truly want this, or at least are truly willing to give it a try.
“I guess I failed then,” Paula admitted, defeated. “Where does that leave me? Do I need to go?” she asked as panic began to set in.
“Hardly,” Gerry “You seemed to accept things well enough tonight; I think you will do very well here.” He hugged her tightly and Paula began to feel herself relax for the first time since she’d arrived on campus, tension she hadn’t known she’d held fading away.
“I would recommend, though, that you get your own paddle up to snuff. I have a feeling we may need it quite frequently.”