Copyright 2001 to <mijita@thetreehouse.net>. Please respect this copyright. Don't distribute or archive this story in any way except for personal use without explicit permission. No, it's not in the public domain. Ask first, okay? Thanks.

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[Image of Little Miss Naughty] Ghost Girl
by Mija

Surrender.

There the relationship began. They'd met on-line and chatted for weeks, at times bouncing dozens of emails a day back and forth. As they talked, the two discovered mutual friends and so much in common. Lindsey had been around the scene for a year, not a regular player but hardly a newbie. Karl wasn't new either, though Lindsey was his first real-life partner. Long before he could tell her how much he cared he couldn't imagine ever being with anyone else. Her voice over the phone made his breath catch.

When the two finally met it was electric - their voices more shattering in the small cafe then their words were on-line or across the phone wires. When Lindsey looked back now she could remember shivering as his hand skimmed her skin. The scenes too came naturally, and felt more serious than Lindsey had ever felt with anyone before. She lifted her bottom to meet his hand, yearning for burning physical pain.

But Karl worried about hurting her. She comforted him as he nearly wept in self-loathing at the sight of bruises marking her legs and bottom. Lindsey embraced Karl and urged him to trace his fingers over the hot, reddened and discolored skin.

"I like wearing your marks," she told him, looking into his eyes, her face open to his. "It makes me feel like I belong to someone. To you." A feeling like feathers stirred next to her heart.

"And you want that? To belong to me?" he asked, fingers barely touching her skin, making her tremble. His voice was hardly a whisper.

Her eyes filled with tears. Always, Lindsey had wanted that as long as she could remember. The desire felt so great she could only nod her answer and marvel at the brightness of his stare, the glow of his eyes. He desired her, wanted her. How lucky!

He raised his hand and brought it down hard on her lower thigh, leaving a mark the shape of his palm. She shuddered, trying not to cry out from the sting. He bent and gently kissed the edges of the mark, before raising his hand and striking the same spot again.

"I've marked you. Now you belong to me."

Lindsey marvelled at the yearning in his voice.

"Yes," she replied, "I'm yours."

He kissed the marks again before striking her other thigh. Lindsey moaned softly. Karl was such a very gentle man, after all.

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Bit by bit it became clear to Karl how much Lindsey needed him. And how much he needed her to need him. There were so many things he could make cleaner, neater, easier.

Later, Lindsey decided they'd been living together a month when the situation changed. Karl's moving in amazed them both only by being so natural, so simple. Karl's orderly space was gradually consuming her chaos. Clutter seemed to vanish daily, replaced with clear, clean, empty surfaces. And she was glad, mostly. They fit together well with little irritation and enjoyed each other's company while respecting individual space.

"Such a bad girl," he scolded. "You were supposed to finish writing that today! What have you been doing all afternoon anyway?"

Lindsey's work was still her own. Everyone knew that real life issues and D/s don't mix.

As ever, Lindsey was rushed, trying to finish her project at the very last minute. And then past the last minute. She'd spent too long chatting on-line and lost track of time - hardly unusual. Now Karl was home and they couldn't spend time together after all because she had deadlines.

"Umm, yeah, I guess. But I'll get it done tomorrow, Karl."

"Tomorrow and tomorrow? That's always the story with you. I think you'll wake up to find someone's taken you in hand, little one."

Lindsey hadn't been listening really. Only giving his words half her mind as the rest of her brain tried to organize her notes, tried to calculate down to the last second how much time this really needed. But those words stopped her cold. What did he mean really? Karl had all her attention now - and had said nothing - just held her gaze until she looked away. Were they at a threshold?

Had Karl smiled? Had she? Lindsey couldn't remember now. Still there it was. She must have acquiesced because he had seen it. And everything had changed.

She knew they hadn't talked about real life work - about discipline and punishment. Like so much of their relationship, it just happened. But Lindsey felt pleased they weren't playing anymore and hummed a little to herself as she typed still more frantically, the heat from the hairbrush burning through the seat of her desk chair.

The next morning there was a timetable with lists of what she was to do while he was at work. Her day broken into hour blocks with even her walk scheduled. Apparently Karl noticed everything, even her activities while she was out. Lindsey looked up at Karl shyly.

"I'm - I'm sorry you need to do this for me," she whispered.

"Don't be sorry. I want to, Baby. You belong to me and what you do affects me. I like knowing where you are and what you're doing."

Lindsey felt a warm rush at his words, confident that this was the right thing for them, whatever others might think. She confessed her on-line chatting, the hours she'd wasted not able to work but not able to enjoy herself either. He'd held her while she cried, telling her she didn't need to be embarrassed, that he'd take care of it. She wasn't to worry about it anymore, she was his responsibility now. She was simply to obey him, do what he said. So simple really. What Lindsey knew she had always wanted.

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The modem went with Karl to work the next morning. It went with him every morning and was home only when Karl was. Lindsey went on-line now only when he was there and could monitor her. No more cyber friends. No more cyber flirting. E-time spins pretty fast and her friends stopped writing her once her replies slowed. Until finally there seemed little reason to even check her e-mail more than once a week anyway.

Early on, the restrictions were hard to take. Lindsey felt a loss, even resentment. Mostly though, she felt glad he cared so much about her and was willing to take control. Plus, her writing was coming along so much more quickly now that she wasn't on-line so much. Who really cares about a few efriends anyway? Her life was full of Karl now.

Besides, as she told him when he asked, it saved her from disappointing him.

And Lindsey didn't want to do that. Ever. Again.

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Lindsey hurried from the cool spring air into the warm house, noting the approaching dusk and wondering where the time had gone. He was there, home early, and waiting for her His belt was already off and wrapped around his right hand.

Karl grabbed her right arm tightly. Cruelly. Lindsey was sure she'd see his fingerprints there for days.

"What are you doing still out? It's almost six. Your walk was scheduled to end three hours ago!"

Lindsey had been doing all her work, daily checking each item off the "To Do List" that he went over with her each morning. But not on the timetable Karl had given her. Doing all of them had seemed enough. But now, as his fingers dug still-more-painfully into her arm, she felt fear stab a hole in her stomach.

"Hey, alright! I'm sorry! Jeez! I was done with my work and wanted to meet Jeanne at the park! I was just out walking - don't have a cow, Karl. Careful, you're hurting me!"

This last as he gave her arm a yank.

"Am I? You wanted to go out. Even though it's getting dark? Even though you knew what you should be doing? Without calling or leaving me a note? Is this the first time you've disobeyed me?"

He spoke low, releasing her arm to yank her sweat pants and panties to her ankles, his belt still wrapped around his hand.

"Well? Don't I even deserve an answer now? Just save those for your friends I guess."

She shook, unable to answer. Standing inside her front door, pants down, her lover holding her in one hand and his belt in the other, seemed ridiculous. Scary. Hot.

Wrong.

Had he been worried about her? Maybe this was her fantasy, being cared for, looked after, desired. Precious enough to be protected.

Hands on her shoulders, Karl shook her again.

"I haven't seen Jeanne in a long time. And I - I've been getting everything done," she said, a bit defensively. "I didn't think you'd mind. And I thought I'd be home first. That's why I didn't leave a note. I'm sorry. I'd done everything on the list."

Hearing the whine in her voice, Lindsey stopped speaking. She was repeating herself anyway. Karl gave her a little shake.

"In your time. Not in mine. But we agreed you'd obey me. I guess I need to make sure of that, Lindsey Michelle. My Bad Little Baby. You don't think - just do what you're told."

He pulled her from the front hall into the living room, catching her when her sweat pants tripped her, pushing her over the back of the sofa, legs dangling.

"Remember who you belong to. Me. Not Jeanne. Not even to yourself."

Karl said nothing else as he thrashed her. Even when the pain got to be too much and she struggled to rise he said nothing, just held her down and whipped her across her bottom, up and down her legs. Pain painted a red haze behind her eyes, broken only by flashes of lightning at each stroke of the belt. As the whipping went on and Lindsey begged him to stop, she realized she didn't want this, didn't want him hitting her. Not this punishment, not now.

She didn't deserve this. No one did.

Lindsey screamed out through her tears.

"Stop! Stop it, Karl! Now goddamn you!!"

His answer was to land a vicious stroke behind her knees. Where her skin was thin and the stroke would show for days. Her cries turned to hysterical sobs as he striped the belt across her legs twelve more times, low and hard.

When it was over, Lindsey shivered as he wrapped his arms around her and gathered her onto his lap. She'd never really cried before from his spankings, but now found herself unable to stop and turned to him for comfort as he quieted her sobs.

Maybe the proof she belonged to him was that she didn't want him to punish her but he did anyway. And she wanted to belong to him. Lindsey wrapped herself in Karl's arms, and comforted herself with that thought.

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Karl had the locks installed that weekend. Bright shiny gold Yale locks. They were the sort of deadbolts that need keys to lock and unlock them, inside and out.

"What if there's a fire while you're away, Karl? I'll be trapped inside. Maybe you could put one in a sealed envelope and we could keep it in the desk. In case of an emergency."

Lindsey looked anxiously at the locks, feeling like a bird in a cage. Or a fish in a bowl.

This was her third attempt to convince him to leave her a key. Sweet little girl arguing and pouting, trying hard to get her way. Lindsey trembled a bit, fearing his reaction to her continued resistance. But he looked amused and pulled her onto his lap.

"Sweetheart, you'd only be trapped if you forget there's a wall full of windows. All you'd need to do would be open one and go through. The screens would rip easily. You belong to me - it's important that I keep you safe."

Of course she could go through the windows. Anytime. So long as she was willing for Karl to see the torn screens. So long as there was a fire. Lindsey shivered and Karl gathered her closer to him before continuing.

"But if I leave you a key, you'll find it too easy to think of emergencies, won't you? And if I didn't agree it was really one, I'd have to punish you. I don't want to have to do that again. This is so you don't need to worry about deciding - another way to protect you even from yourself."

She curled up against his chest, her body responding shamefully to his hand rubbing her bottom and thighs. When he squeezed her welts she shuddered. He turned her across his lap and pulled up her plaid skirt so he could see the marks better.

"What are these, Lindsey?"

"Your belt marks . . . sir."

"What do they mean, Baby?"

Fingers pinching, squeezing, making her moan behind her teeth. Shameless.

"That I belong to you."

"You do don't you? Belong to me when you're a good girl. And belong to me when you're naughty."

Though unspoken, Lindsey felt him asking her if she wanted this, his hand smooth against her sore flesh. She thought of telling Karl she didn't - that this was scary. But then his hand touched between her legs, feeling her wetness at its source. No lies between them. This was what she'd always wanted. A man who would own her. Punish her as he saw fit. Not some fantasy of being swatted only when she'd agreed.

She heard her voice say, unbidden, "Forever. And always."

"Such a shameless, naughty girl. I'll need to watch over you so closely. Make sure you aren't bad."

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"What the hell do you mean, Lindsey? Open the goddamn door and let me in. I haven't seen you in weeks. You never call anymore."

Lindsey felt a pang of guilt. She couldn't call of course - the phones which, like the internet, had proved too distracting were also locked away, voice mail taking messages she could only retrieve when Karl was home. Jeanne must have tried to call, not gotten an answer and then come over.

Lindsey's mind reeled as she tried to take in that this was Jeanne, not the man from FedEx (who was supposed to be delivering a letter for Karl and who she was supposed to ask to leave it on the porch). Too late now to pretend she wasn't home.

Letting Jeanne in just wasn't an option. The door was locked tight. And Jeanne could hardly be asked to climb in through the window even if Lindsey were willing to rip down the screen.

"Um, I'm sorry, Jeanne, I can't open the door."

"Why the hell not?"

"I - I'm just out of the shower - I'm not even dressed yet."

Which wasn't true. But Lindsey was wearing a 'smart' plaid uniform skirt, knee socks and a blazer and sure didn't want Jeanne to see them. Damn her anyway. None of her other friends still bothered looking for her. Enough calls had been returned hurriedly or not at all. But here was Jeanne at the door and not planning on leaving from the sound of it.

"So I'll talk to ya in the buff! Give me a thrill, please! I don't give a crap what you're wearing or if the house is a mess, just let me in so I can get a cup of coffee for god's sake. Have some mercy."

Lindsey almost laughed; she'd forgotten that Jeanne couldn't function without coffee. There was a time when Lindsey would have thought nothing of throwing open the door totally naked and seeing if Jeanne was shocked. They were those sorts of friends.

Without a second thought she told the truth. Maybe Jeanne could understand. And who really cared if she couldn't?

"Actually, Jeanne, I really can't let you in. The door's locked and I don't have the key."

There was a longish pause and Lindsey's courage faltered. She couldn't bear for Jeanne to think badly of Karl. It wasn't fair to him after all.

"You don't have a key to your own house? How the hell did it get locked then?"

"Um . . . Karl locked it on his way to work," Lindsey sucked in and lied. "I've lost both my key and the spare - I don't want him to know."

That was certainly believable. Everyone knew what a flake Lindsey was with keys. Was with anything, come to think of it. She looked around the spotless living room and wished she could let Jeanne in just to show it off.

"So you're locked inside your own house?? Why didn't you call a locksmith?"

"I forgot to pay the phone bill too. I've been really busy working on the book. I'll call you next week. Sorry I've been such a -"

"No way. You're not getting away so easily. Remember, you said you'd let me see some chapters, something to inspire me? I'll call the locksmith on my cell. They can make up a new key and Herr Karl will never know."

Lindsey felt annoyance battle with her pleasure at not having been entirely forgotten. She felt so unworthy, it was hard to remember that anyone could miss her. Still this wasn't something she should or could explain - not even to a friend like Jeanne.

"Damn it, Jeanne, you're sweet to think of me, but honestly I'm fine. I'll call you tomorrow night and we'll arrange a time to get together next week, really."

"Look - you might as well give up. I'm calling the locksmith and I'll put it on my card. You can owe me if you're short or whatever. But you're getting a key to that door today. Never argue with a bull dyke, chickie."

Lindsey pressed her forehead against the cool plaster wall and helplessly listened through the door while Jeanne called some locksmith and told them she had emergency lockout. Why the heck did these sorts of problems happen to her anyway? Didn't anyone respect her enough just to take "no" for an answer? At least Karl couldn't blame her for this.

Except maybe he'd think she should have told Jeanne the truth. But of course Jeanne couldn't understand. Hell, she didn't understand herself. Looking down at her uniform, staring at the front door of her house which she no longer owned keys for, Lindsey felt disoriented, almost dizzy.

In the end she'd gone and made coffee, joked with Jeanne about her uniform - told her that it helped her be more disciplined about her writing - and gratefully accepted the key.

Jeanne admired Lindsey's progress, taking three new chapters away to read. Lindsey also noticed her eyes running admiringly over her uniform, as though she longed to touch it.

"Man, you really have found the secret - this is more than you'd done in the past year. But ya gotta get out more, girl. You're pale as a ghost. Take care of that key now."

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That key. Lindsey almost gave it to Karl when he got home. Keeping it was a betrayal. She knew he'd be angry with her were he to discover it on his own - it would be better to give it to him now, and try and explain about Jeanne. After all, she hadn't taken off her uniform. But then he would maybe punish her and she didn't want to be punished. And what if Jeanne came by again?

In the end Lindsey decided to keep the key.

Hiding the key became a constant preoccupation whenever Karl was out. At first, she kept it in an envelope, mixed in with the papers in her desk. Then Lindsey started worrying that Karl would decide to help her organize those. And moved it. Again and again.

The key changed things for Lindsey. She could have Jeanne in for coffee (still amazed at how easily the eccentricity of her uniform-wearing was accepted), go out and cruise back roads in Jeanne's red truck. Her skin lost some of its pallor as her only walks were no longer at night with Karl or on the treadmill upstairs.

The visits were always late in the morning and over by early afternoon, far inside the Karl-At-Work safety zone. Still, each time she unlocked the door for Jeanne, Lindsey felt a frisson of fear that thrilled her, like a naughty girl sneaking cookies before dinner. Those sorts of treats are always sweetest.

Both women's writing improved. And Lindsey was careful to be extra obedient in everything else. She was sure Karl could have no idea. Still, at times when he praised her, told her what a good girl she was, Lindsey felt pangs of guilt coupled with her feelings of pleasure.

Not enough to make her confess, though. Not enough to give up Jeanne.

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"I'll come by before I leave. On my way out of town."

"I just can't believe you're really leaving." Carefully setting the coffee cup down and trying not to let her hand shake.

"Yeah, well, finally a teaching gig. Tenure-track even. Who'd have thought?"

"I would have. No, I mean, I always knew you'd get hired. You're so brilliant, Jeanne. I'm glad, really. It's just that I'll miss you. Miss you a lot."

Lindsey felt her voice break a little. Heard the emotion.

Jeanne heard it too and seemed to flush a little.

"So come with me, Lindsey. You and your cute little uniforms can sit where I live and you can write there. I'd love it. My own little schoolgirl femme. I've always had a thing for the good girls."

Lindsey blushed a little, not having realized that Jeanne had liked her pleated skirts so. She'd never mentioned it. But Jeanne couldn't really be serious. Lindsey laughed a little.

"Yeah, right. For a second there I thought you meant it."

Jeanne paused and looked at Lindsey sadly.

"And for a second there I thought you might really come. Think about it, Lindsey. I'll come by on my way out of town. You can just jump in my truck. Leave a note for Herr Karl. Or just be gone when he gets home. We'll be our own Thelma and Louise story, but this time with a happy ending. "

"Thanks, but I couldn't do that."

"Whatever, Lindsey. I'll be here a week from today. And you could you know, walk right out that door and into my truck. I know what you need better than you think."

Jeanne reached across the table, pinned Lindsey's wrist to the table and kissed her hard and a little roughly. Lindsey responded, feeling Jeanne's fingers twine in her hair, holding her in place.

As the kiss ended, Lindsey thought she heard Jeanne whisper, "Let me be the one who spanks you, little girl."

But it could have been "loves you". Lindsey wasn't sure.

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The week passed in a blur, Lindsey in a daze of imagination, feverishly thinking of Jeanne. Imagining herself over Jeanne's lap, being spanked in uniform, her naughty girl. Imagining more, being Jeanne's little girl, calling her "Mommy". She felt a warm surge and wished Jeanne would call, come by, something.

Could she really talk to Jeanne about it? Lindsey wondered. Let her know what she wanted, needed? Her friend was leaving anyway, so yes. If only she'd come by once more.

Karl had to punish her twice. Once a hard hairbrush spanking for not paying attention and forgetting something he'd already reminded her to do. The spanking had left her tearful and contrite just after, curled in a ball on his lap. The next day, however, the ache made her sulky, made her go and get the key and finger it. She put it in her pencil cup, leaving it in easy reach should Jeanne come by. Hairbrush spankings would be different from Jeanne, she was sure.

Jeanne didn't come by, though. And Lindsey felt ignored. When he came home, Lindsey snapped at Karl, pouting and sulking. He tried not to see it for a while - or at least so it seemed. Perhaps he didn't believe Lindsey would push him after all this time. She'd been such a good girl for so long. And he didn't want to be heavy tonight, wanted to hug and cuddle her. She could tell - and didn't want him to touch her - made herself ugly and mean.

Finally, though, she pushed too far. Karl told her she needed to change her attitude or he'd change it for her. She'd slammed her desk drawer in answer, telling him he could "just fuck right off".

She was looking at her pencil cup. Not him. Her mind was touching the key, imagining Jeanne's arms around her. Soft, sweet, feminine. Smooth, not scary and hairy.

When she turned, the hurt on his face made her apologize immediately. The angry expression that replaced the hurt dried her mouth, took her words away.

"Sorry? Is that all you have to say? Let's just see how sorry I can make my dirty-mouthed little girl."

He grabbed her by the arm, pulling her into the bathroom and forcing soap into her mouth. She tried to struggle, tried to squirm away from the smack of his palm on her skirt, his hand holding her jaw.

"You just take your punishment, young lady. You've been asking for it all night and now you're going to get it. Bad, spoiled little girl."

Lindsey tried to spit the soapy taste from her mouth as she struggled frantically. Karl held her tight, pulled her into his study, and used three school ties to secure her across his always-clear work table. Yanked her skirt up and panties down past her knees. She was stretched out, her toes barely brushing the floor.

"No no no, please, Karl. I'm sorry, I promise, I didn't mean it! I'm just distracted."

When Karl was being gentle, it was too easy for Lindsey to forget what it was like when he punished her. When he punished her, Lindsey couldn't imagine him any other way. Her fingers ached to wrap around the key, her feet longed to flee. She prayed she would die or go mad before the punishment really started.

"Too distracted to remember who you belong to. To remember what's important, apparently. So let me show you."

Lindsey thought it would be his belt and held her breath waiting for the familiar metallic click, but instead Karl left her tied there. She felt her muscles ache, feared he'd leave her there for hours. Until she begged him for the strap. She started sobbing in fearful little chokes.

But no, there was the sound of his footsteps returning.

When Karl came back, there was a whishing noise that made her blood freeze. She recognized the sound as that of their thin rattan cane. Its whippy 32-inch length had only been used in play for some of their heavier school scenes. Heavy, but playful school scenes.

"Please," she whispered when he stepped in front of her, the cane now in her line of sight. "Please, not that. Don't use it. I'm - I'm afraid of you." Lindsey felt her stomach clench with anxiety. Was he even practiced with this thing? She didn't, couldn't know.

"And you should be. What was it you just told me to do, Lindsey Michelle?"

One stroke of the cane before she could answer. And a pause. The pain was too brilliant at first, but then as the blood rushed back the sensation grew. Trying to struggle away from it, Lindsey realized she couldn't move.

Another stroke, even harder than the first.

"I'm waiting for an answer, Lindsey Michelle." Karl tapped the cane just above her knees. "This is where the next stroke's going if I don't get to hear from you."

Lindsey choked out a sob, feeling suddenly pliant, the familiar desire to please Karl rushing over her.

"justfuckoff," softly, barely a whisper. Her voice filled with pain and regret.

Another three strokes, hard and fast, across the base of her bottom, making her scream, making her angry. Making her swallow her anger.

"Oh, so you do have a voice. Louder please, I couldn't hear that." His voice was unkind and taunted her.

Lindsey panted as Karl again tapped the cane over the welts.

"I said you could just fuck off." Even through her tears and fear, Lindsey managed to invest it with a little bit of defiance. But the defiance scared her and she pushed it down, something not needed or wanted. She felt herself slide into a more submissive space and embraced it.

Three more hard strokes, where her bottom and thighs met.

"Exactly right. You did say that. And now you're sorry, right?"

"Yes," Lindsey gasped, before the next stroke could land. "I'm very very sorry."

Two more strokes criss-crossed those already there.

"So you didn't mean it. Didn't mean to be that disrespectful."

"No, sir. I didn't mean it, really." Lindsey sobbed now, screaming as the cane connected again.

Karl paused, seeming to think, or maybe just survey his handiwork. Lindsey tried to slow her breathing and struggled to find a place to put this sort of pain. She panicked when she couldn't and began to cry like a lost child, apologizing and begging Karl to forgive her. If only he would, everything would be alright. She'd be the perfect girl, perfect partner, never leave him always love him. If only he'd forgive her and stop.

He touched her face, running his hand along her cheek, pushing her heavy hair back. Karl's fingertips traced patterns through her tears.

"No, no, it's my fault really, Baby. Shush, shush. It's all going to be okay. My fault. I need to make sure you remember you respect me. Make sure you think before you say things like that."

He tapped the cane against her welted bottom. Making her tremble.

"So count these now and thank me for each one. Because you don't know how high I'm going. And I'm sure you're not going to want me to have to start over."

Through a red haze, Lindsey counted to eighteen before she was unable to hear or think of anything outside the pain. She had no memory of anything outside this moment and lost any hope that the hurt might ever stop. There was only the red pain before her eyes and the shrill voice screaming in her ear. Screaming for mercy. She heard herself as if listening to the voice of another. Such a pathetic mewling girl.

Lindsey couldn't blame Karl for punishing her; she loathed herself. Jeanne wouldn't ever come and she was a careless fool to have even imagined anything outside her life with Karl. Lindsey was just lucky Karl cared so much. All she could think about was pleasing him. Being good. She swore never to think of Jeanne again. It was too disloyal and unfair.

Afterward, he helped her clean herself, wrapped her in soft towels and held her close, telling her he forgave her. And, curled up against him, Lindsey wept until her eyes were dry. Wrapped close in his arms, she slept so deeply she didn't notice him carrying her to bed.

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The following evening Lindsey, dressed as required in her best school uniform, asked Karl if maybe they could go to the shore and watch the sunset. He smiled, looking past her to the small basket dinner she'd already packed, in hope.

"I suppose so, Baby. But we'll need to leave now. And you'll have to leave your uniform on."

Lindsey smiled brightly, nodding with enthusiasm. "I want to wear it, really." She straightened her blazer and tie a bit, brushing off invisible lint.

Karl smiled. She looked so sweet, so good. The cane marks were invisible, hidden by the kilt, but he knew they were there, that she felt them whenever she moved. He longed to run his hands and mouth over them, feel Lindsey shiver with fear and desire.

The drive to the shore was uneventful - Lindsey and Karl were together, but both lost in their own thoughts. He, in a pride of ownership. She, seeming to fathom something deeper.

The quiet persisted, bemusing Karl a bit. Lindsey seemed her sweet loving self, yet was mostly silent, something that tended to happen only when she was sulking. Usually she tended toward a stream of happy chatter. He watched as she drifted away from him and picked up stones to skim along the water. Every now and then she turned and waved, watching him watch her.

Turning away to pack up their basket, Karl spun back to see Lindsey throw something small, bright and metal into the water. He dropped the basket and ran to her.

"What did you throw in there?"

"What? Uh - nothing. Rocks, I mean." She looked up at him, seeming to will him to believe her. "I was skipping stones, Karl."

"No, just now there was something else. I saw it, it was gold. You threw something gold into the water."

He watched her closely as she brushed her hair back and laughed up at him.

"Silly! I wouldn't throw gold away. It was just a stone."

Karl started to argue, then stopped. He could make her tell him. Make her tell him anything - do anything. But maybe this was something he didn't want to know.

"Yeah, right, Baby. Just a stone. The light must have caught it just right."

Lindsey looked up at him and nodded. Her face, framed by her loose dark hair, looked golden in the last of the sunlight. It could have been a stone after all, he told himself.

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At 11:30 on Friday morning, Jeanne's red truck idled in front of Lindsey and Karl's house. Jeanne sat in the driver's seat and watched the windows. She could see Lindsey there, her figure ghostly behind the curtains.

Jeanne sat quietly, waiting for Lindsey to come out and say 'yes' or 'no'. Anything.

Surely she'd at least come out to say goodbye.

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Lindsey stood by the window, her packed suitcase beside her. She could see Jeanne inside the truck, waiting for her. She could open the window, climb out and run to the truck. Tell Jeanne all about herself across miles of open highway.

In case of emergency break glass. Lindsey could just go through the window.

But why didn't Jeanne come to the door? Or the window. If she did, Lindsey could ask her if - if she really wanted someone like Lindsey. She needed know if Jeanne really said she'd spank her. And if she understood what that meant.

Jeanne was still in the truck, though. Lindsey's hand hovered at the window. What if Jeanne wasn't interested in her? What if she was disgusted by what Lindsey needed? In chasing a fantasy about Jeanne, Lindsey would lose Karl and be left with no-one. Leaving would be insanity.

'After all,' thought Lindsey, 'my life with Karl is what I've always wanted.'

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At noon on Friday, Jeanne's red truck drove away, watched only by the ghost girl inside the window.

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