“Lovely day, isn’t it?”
Gail could only gape and try to avoid Henry’s eyes as he lowered himself down beside her on the flat rock overlooking the river.
“Couldn’t ask for more sunshine this time of year; the break from the rain is much appreciated. Bit of a chill though.”
Gail uttered a noncommittal grunt. She had run. He had found her. And he wanted to talk about the weather.
As the silence stretched on, she changed a glance over at Henry. He lounged back, face turned upwards, eyes closed, and appearing to not have a care in the world.
Perhaps he didn’t- he wasn’t the one awaiting- or rather, hiding from- a spanking.
As she looked at him she took in his arms, muscled and strong, his callused wrinkled hands, his well-worn jeans and jacket. He would have been quite intimidating, if not for the friendly aura that clung to him, even after what he had sentenced her to.
One eye opened slightly as she watched, the corner raised in a slight smile when he caught her looking.
“Something on your mind?” he asked.
Gail nearly snipped a reply back but caught herself. She was in enough trouble already. Besides, there was something peaceful about this moment, something surreal in sitting quietly, pleasantly with one’s soon-to-be punisher.
Just as there was something surreal in being here at all. She had been hoping for community service, fearing prison, but had never imagined that she would wind up at this mountain retreat, in a cross between indentured servitude and a second childhood.
And she’d never imagined that she could come to feel at home here.
The work was hard. Only a five of the twenty-something disused cabins had been rendered habitable for visitors. Restoration was tiring and messy. . . and satisfying. Though she had balked at the idea of cleaning the cabins between guests, she had come to see the work as worthwhile. After all the time that went into bringing the disused structures back to a habitable condition, there was a certain pleasure in the menial but relatively straightforward work of straightening and polishing them for the next visitors.
If nothing else, the work kept her mind off the spanking thing.
It had been spelled out in black and white on the contract she had signed. She was to obey Henry for the duration of her term here. If not, he could spank. If she refused. . . she didn’t want to consider the possibility of serving the duration of her sentence in prison. As strenuous as this life may be, it at least came with the blessing of an open sky.
And Henry. She looked over at him again to find him gazing at her patiently. He had been so patient with her. Even in her first, surly days, he had given her space. He had given her work, true, but had trusted her to get on with it, returning just before mealtimes to perform a quick inspection, rewarding her with a bright grin and warm hug when she had finished her tasks for the day to his satisfaction, ignoring her huffing and muttering that wasn’t quite under her breath until whatever sentiment prompted the muffled outbursts had withered and died.
Sitting by the river, she couldn’t quite remember what had sparked the fury that had come over her this morning, that had fueled her cursing at the man she suddenly viewed more as jailor than guardian, that had sent her crashing out through the forest after he had pronounced her sentence, leaving Henry to finish her chores that morning. She had been so sure of herself then, but whatever indignation she had felt and clung to died under Henry’s patient gaze.
She tried to respond, to say something to him, offer some sort of apology, but could only blush and turn away.
Henry saved her from the silence. “When I agreed to this, I was told to spank the girls on arrival. Seemed a barbaric tradition, and not one I was keen to keep. Still, it did serve to break the ice as such. Established order, though in some cases a bit too much so. This isn’t a prison, much as it might seem one at times. You are here for more than punishment, though that is an inseparable part of the experience.”
“Yes, Sir,” she admitted. Not an apology yet, but acceptance. Respect.
“You know what you have coming,” he continued sternly. “It won’t kill you. It will hurt. You deserve it. You will also be assigned extra work for the rest of the week, need to make up for your unplanned holiday today. Set your mind and muscle to it, and you might only need spend an hour or so in the evenings to catch up.”
“Yes, Sir,” she replied again. The sentence had been delivered dispassionately, in the same tone he used when assessing the work required on the cabins. There was no anger, just an assessment of the things to fix, things to strip away, things worth keeping.
“Are you ready?”
Gail sighed. “I guess.”
“That’ll do for now. Come along.” Henry stood, offering a hand as she rose and followed him back to the cabin he had adopted as his own. He held the door for her, then closed it firmly behind him. Gail flinched as he lifted the strap from its hook. She’d seen it every time she passed through the door, though had never yet given Henry cause to use it.
“H- How many?” she asked.
“Twelve,” Henry replied, “to start with. Every girl has responds differently. For some, twelve is all I ever need deliver. For others, the count increases until the lesson is learned.” He fixed her with a piercing look. “With you, I have a suspicion twelve will be enough.”
It wasn’t praise, not exactly, but Gail found herself pleased by the remark. She managed a small smile through her growing fear. Henry was strong, she had seen plenty of evidence of that. And precise; she’d seen his skill with the mallet and axe. But now it was not timber but her own behind that was to feel his strength, to be shaped by his hand.
“How do you want me?” she asked.
Henry pulled a chair out from the dining table, the same chair she had sat on to share meals with him. “Bare your bottom and bend over the back. Hands on the seat and hold on tight. You’ll need your hands for your chores and I don’t want to injure them.” He left unspoken the sentiment that she would be kept busy enough to not need to sit down much for the next few days.
With a shudder and a deepening blush, Gail turned away from him to lower her clothing, bending over the chair quickly to hide herself. The cool mountain air chilled her bottom, but only until the first stroke of the strap fell.
Gail had tried to remain silent, but heard a screech escape her lips before she gathered the sense to stop herself. She fought the urge to rise, an urge that was only redoubled by the next stroke.
As the burn in her bottom grew, stoked by the application of the strap, she felt her wails turn into sobs. Her tears splashed down onto the seat of the chair, but couldn’t be embarrassed by her crying; her mind was consumed by the punishment.
“Two more,” she heard Henry announce, his voice still calm and reassuring, an anchor she clung to as she tightened her grip on the chair for the last of the strapping.
When Henry lifted her, she gripped him just as tightly, too deeply immersed in his embrace to notice or care that her lower half was still bare and exposed to him. After the exposure of the punishment, such minor physical concerns didn’t even register.
He helped her to her room, all but carrying her and laying her down on the bed, face down to save her bottom further torment. He stroked her shoulders as her sobbing quieted. “It is over. You may rest for a bit, and I will come for you when dinner is ready.”
“I’ll be here,” Gail replied. She was finished running away.