Christmas had thrown up in the living room. Cassie eyed the mess disdainfully before squeezing her eyes shut, hoping childishly that by some magic it would vanish when she opened them again.
It didn’t; sometimes being an adult wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Cassie sighed, tore a big black bag off the roll, and started chucking bits of tinsel and pine into it’s maw, humming a carol to attempt to lift her spirits. It was worth it, she decided as she settled into the rhythm of cleaning. It had been a wondrous December, but now Christmas was prematurely over for her- at least until March.
It had been her mother’s idea, and now that Cassie had reached the age where such ideas were not immediately dismissed as ridiculous, she had to admit it was a very good one. It had come about after her brother Jordan’s near-death experience the previous Christmas- an experience that had involved the actual death of Jordan’s car. Her parent’s home in northern Minnesota was in an idyllic setting, and the snow lying untouched on the expansive yard was beautiful. The snow lying untouched on the long, rural roads to the house as beautiful as well, but also dangerous.
It had felt odd to not be joining the hustle and bustle of travel in the days before Christmas, but watching the frantic shoppers dashing about in the bone-chilling rain from her cosy perch safe and warm in her favourite coffee shop had been nothing short of bliss. The ability to opt out of that particular stressor was one of the biggest perks of a rescheduled Christmas, she reminded herself. That and the drastically reduced chances of travel difficulties- and drastically reduced fares.
And it wasn’t as though she had missed out on Christmas entirely. The entire month was festive enough, what with the local Christmas fair, nights out, lights around town, office parties, and even an impromptu party in her apartment block. Knowing that she would be remaining for the duration, neighbours eager to divest their refrigerators of various perishables and leftover party treats had stopped by in droves bearing various gifts.
Cassie smiled as she thought back on the cheery afternoon. Everyone, right down to old Mrs. Withers had stopped by- albeit, in her case, with the intention of complaining about the noise, but even she had been caught up in the festive cheer and had agreed to join them for a steaming cup of mulled wine- and then a second.
Christmas itself had been much quieter. The apartment had seemed cheery the previous day when packed with friends, but the trail of destruction left in their wake had kept her mind and hands well occupied the next day. After a decidedly un-cheery holiday spent scrubbing the kitchen, today was now dedicated to tackling the mess in the sitting room. While not as sticky, the sheer volume of mess was daunting.
Tackling the Christmas tree first had seemed like a good idea, but piles of lights and ornaments everywhere only made the room feel more disorganised and claustrophobic. Cassie mumbled one more desperate plea under her breath. Did Santa still grant wishes a few days later?
The good saint arrived, not with the jingle of sleigh bells, but with the jarring horn-blat of an aging green VW. Stephen. Usually she would have been thrilled to see him, sputtering car and all, but what promise was there in a budding love interest from whom she’d heard nothing on Christmas?
Cassie tossed aside the rubbish bag with a harumph and went to the door. Now was not the time for visitors.
“What do you want?” she snapped before Stephen had quite made it to her door.
“You’re coming with me!” he replied cheerily, reaching for her hand.
“I am not,” Cassie replied angrily, yanking her hand from him and folding her arms across her chest. “You have no idea the mess I have to deal with inside.”
“It will still be there tomorrow. Tell you what, I’ll come back then and help. Today thought, today is a holiday and no time to be on your own. I could have kicked myself when I realised you were all alone for Christmas. Can’t be helped now, but we can try to make up for lost time.”
“Thanks, but I’m quite fine on my own. I have too much to do to go trotting off to wherever it is you’re off to,” she spat back.
“Oh,” Stephen replied, somewhat taken aback. “Is it really that bad? I’ll give you a hand now if you’d prefer.”
“Fine,” Cassie huffed as she turned back to face the mess. “Just don’t break anything.”
“Maybe Santa hasn’t been here yet after all, an attitude like that would have been spanked right out of you.”
“Well, I’m clearly too old for such a thing,” Cassie replied as she continued to roughly fill her bag, nearly toppling a reindeer statue from her bookshelf. Stephen caught it deftly, placing it to one side before grabbing Cassie’s shoulders firmly and fixing her with a stern look.
“Perhaps, though I do say it could do you some goood.”
She didn’t speak, but her glare gave him the “You wouldn’t dare!” prompt that is rarely refused. The bag soon lay forgotten as Cassie lay over Stephen’s knee, a posture unfamiliar but not necessarily uncomfortable- that is until the spanking began.
Looking back, Cassie would almost miss this first spanking- while his hand stung, her skirt absorbed most of the impact. At the time however, Cassie squirmed and grunted at what seemed an intimate intrusion. Wriggle as she might, neither Cassie nor Stephen interpreted the gesture as an attempt to truly escape.
“What’s this all about anyway? I come around to see you, hoping to sweep you off for a bit of festive fun. I even offered to help with the clean-up from your party, but all I get in return is the ice-queen treatment.”
“Fitting,” Cassie replied, “For someone recovering from a cold and lonely Christmas.”
“You could have told me! I had thought you’d be back visiting your parents. Didn’t realise you were still around until I heard from Maura this morning.”
“Oh,” was all Cassie could manage, grateful that her position at least hid her blush.
“I care about you, and I am trying, but I need a bit more communication from you. Understood?” He punctuated the last word with a firm swat that drew a squeal from Cassie.
“Fine then,” she replied indignantly.
“And you’ll need to work on that attitude,” Stephen said as a prelude to a series of swift, hard swats that brought a hint of tears to Cassie’s eyes.
“Now,” Stephen continued as he transitioned from spanking to a more gentle rubbing, “do you want to keep cleaning or come with me? Or I suppose we could also continue the spanking.”
“No!” Cassie shouted, “not that.”
Stephen grinned. “Are you sure? You seem to have taken to it rather well. I may need to keep this in mind.”
“No,” Cassie repeated, wriggling off his lap, but smiling as she gave him a hug. “At least not today. Where is it we’re going anyway?”