Copyright 1998 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] Swinging; or Fear of Flying
by Mija

Standing on tiptoe beneath an open, but screened, second-storey window, a girl in a crisp, neat, gray and green uniform shades her eyes to try and peer into the gloom. She hisses loudly.

'Pssssst!'

And louder.

'Psssst!! Tasha, ya in there? Tasha?!'

'Shhh, Mija! Of COURSE I'm here! Be quiet or they'll hear you! I'm not s'posed to even talk to you for a week! I don't wanna get in trouble again any time too soon!'

Mija nods, knowing what her friend means. Her hands reach back unconsciously to rub her bottom. The stinging memory of the friends' failed history as gamblers still lingers.

'I know. When I went to the front door, that housekeeper said that you couldn't play for a week . . . or 'least not with me. I'm s'posed to be doing some dumb book report for school, but I wanted to talk to ya for just a minute and make sure you were still alive.'

Despite Tasha's shushing, Mija's voice again rises out of a whisper into the danger level. Tasha turns and looks fearfully over her shoulder, listening for the warning sounds of footsteps on the stairs. Instead, she hears the reassuring noise of the vacuum cleaner starting up.

Making a decision, Tasha motions Mija away from the window. As Mija watches, the screen swings outward and her friend emerges feet first. With the confidence of one who has made the trip many times previously, Tasha's legs wrap around the oak tree branch and she climbs quickly down. Like Mija, Tasha is dressed in a neat gray gymslip, starched white shirt and dark green knee socks. Tasha is, however, minus the required striped tie and green blazer. Mija removes those items from her own uniform and slings her blazer over her arm. Now the two are dressed identically.

Tasha and Mija chat happily and soon find they have walked out of the relative safety of the shadows into the warm spring sunshine. They reach the park down the street from both their houses. What a beautiful day! Warm and clear, the sky a deep, bright blue, framed by the town's large leafy green trees. Any thought of where they are actually supposed to be, or what they were told to do, vanishes. The two girls run excitedly toward the swings, a high set in a sandy enclosure. At first they take turns pushing each other out over the yellow sand, yelling 'higher, higher!' Then each girl takes her own swing, pumping with their legs, pleated skirts blowing up.

The momentum builds until the arc of the swings is so great that the chains suspending the seats dance. Mija feels her face flush with excitement, her hair slipping the constraints of her barrettes, which fall into the sand and are instantly lost. Her dark brown hair now flies free, back and forth, tangling in front of her eyes and mouth. She watches Tasha's black hair whipping her face, falling in front of her friend's eyes.

'It feels like we're flying! We are flying!!' Mija yells to Tasha.

'No, Mija, you're not,' replies Tasha, 'But I am!'

With that, Tasha pumps one final time with her legs, releases her hold on the swing's metal chains and launches herself into space. She lands a short distance away on her hands and knees, then flips over on her back, lying on the dusty sand, laughing.

Sitting up and turning to Mija, whose own swing slows as she looks on in amazement, Tasha cries,

'Your turn, SchoolBrat! . . . Come on, let go! 'S fun!! Do it!!! 'Less you're too scared!!!'

Tasha has said the magic words since Mija never refuses a dare. She pumps her legs hard, increasing her momentum and the height of the swing, then finally, her heart pounding, she pushes herself out into the air. She is flying!! Mija screams with delight as she lands painlessly on the loose sand a few feet left of Tasha.

The two girls look at the sand on each other's faces and in their hair and laugh.

'I've got sand in my teeth!' shouts Mija, spitting little grains onto the ground beside her.

'Well I've got it in my nose!' replies Tasha, rubbing the offending feature.

'Yeah, but I've got sand in -' But Mija can say no more as the two dissolve into hysterical laughter.

Still giggling, both Tasha and Mija kick off their shoes and socks, watching the sand pour out of each. Laughing and barefoot, the two, now in decidedly less-neat uniforms, race back to the swings and repeat the process, again and again screaming as they propel themselves into space. . . .

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Meanwhile, Paul arrives home a bit tired. The house seems strangely cold and empty. Sniffing, he realizes at once Mija forgot to put the casserole in the oven. He goes upstairs to their room, where he expects to find her hard at work at the computer on her book report. Instead, Paul finds an empty room. The desk chair is pushed aside, and the screen-saver's been left spinning endless concentric circles on the monitor. Perplexed, Paul moves the mouse to see what's on the screen. As he looks, his confusion turns to annoyance. The report is little different than it was when he left. What has the girl been doing all afternoon? And still more important, just where is Mija?

Paul's quick inventory of the various rooms proves futile as Mija is obviously nowhere in the house. Just as he starts to open the front door, his heart stops at the sound of a frighteningly-familiar and high-pitched scream. He yanks open the door and rushes out, only to pause with relief at the sight of two girls playing on the swings over at the park. A spring breeze carries the sounds of their shrieking laughter to him.

At first glance, he is charmed by the sight. He takes a few steps down the walk, his impulse being to let go of adult responsibility and join the girls in their play. At that moment, as if daring him, Paul sees the girl he identifies as Tasha (hadn't he heard something about her having to say in for a week after the two's last debacle?) launch herself off the swing, closely followed by Mija. The two's graceful flights contrast with their sprawled landings. The sounds of rising giggles and teasing about who had traveled fastest, furthest, highest, confirm for Paul that neither is hurt.

Paul's irritation returns as he considers Mija's still unfinished book report. He recalls her late nights and somewhat testy conversations of the past few days. Thus far he's been very patient, knowing, or believing, that despite her procrastination, Mija is taking her work seriously and is already quite stressed out over the already-late assignment.

Now here she is, playing at the park, her homework still unfinished. It would seem Mija needs a reminder of the proper order of her priorities.

Paul pushes down his desire to go play on the swings himself and takes a deep breath.

'Mija Perez!'

Paul's voice sounds across the block, up and down the street. Its volume and depth surprise him. This sounds for all the world like The Voice Of Authority. The somewhat pompous tone causes a laugh to rise in his chest, but he squelches it, pulling on a sterner mask.

His shout has the desired effect. As Paul watches, Mija's swing comes to an abrupt halt as she looks toward him with what he imagines, though he can't see her face, is alarm. He motions with his hand and arm for her to come home immediately. Their dance has begun yet again. . . .

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Mija's toes ache from digging into the sand to stop her swing. She sits frozen on the seat, the sunshine forgotten. The pain in her feet reminds her that her heart hasn't stopped beating, that she isn't dead just yet.

'Shoot,' Mija hisses under her breath. (At least the word sounds like 'shoot'.)

'Uh-oh!' says Tasha, giggling nervously. 'Girl you are tot-tally bu-u-u-u-usted!'

Tasha's voice, though teasing in tone, betrays her own nervousness as she considers that this might be a really good time to slip back in through her own window.

Mija just gives Tasha a bad look but doesn't reply. She's too busy trying to gather up the discarded pieces of her uniform: tie, blazer, shoes, socks (make that 'sock' - one is lost in the sand and cannot be found), scattered about during their play. Mija is suddenly aware she's filthy. Her face feels grimy, covered with a layer of perspiration and sandy dirt. Watching the tall figure she's sure is Paul motion for her to come home, Mija tries vainly to dust off her shirt and gymslip skirt, whacking at them with her dirty hands, adding smudged fingerprints to the grime. She pulls on her relatively clean, though still dusty blazer in the hope of covering her dirt-streaked, formerly-white shirt. Mija yanks her tie into place, though her nerves make it impossible to do the knot correctly. Without her sock she can't very well put on her shoes so she carries them down the street in her left hand and walks slowly toward home.

When had their house moved so darn far down the street anyway?

In a final gesture of defiance she does not feel, Mija pauses at the edge of the park, turns back toward Tasha, and raises one fist in the 'Power to the Brats' salute.

(This isn't all that brave on Mija's part as Paul is actually quite nearsighted!)

Tasha answers with a (quiet) version of the yell and a loud whisper, 'Call me if you can.'

Her eyes darting between Paul and her shoeless feet, Mija feels confused. What's happened? She feels so happy to see Paul, he looks like home, waiting for her on their front walk. Mija's heart skips lightly and her steps quicken. She's always glad to see him.

'Yes,' Mija's too-often-quiet super-ego warns her, 'but you were supposed to be waiting for him.' Her unfinished report drifts across her consciousness and her feet again begin to drag. She drops her gaze to the sidewalk as she studies the cracks for the perfect explanation.

Mija sighs. There is no way to explain any of this. Maybe Paul just won't think it's such a big deal. Maybe, she tells herself, he's just calling me home for dinner. . . .

Dinner! Mija slaps her forehead, remembering the note on the refrigerator, complete with temperature, asking her to put the dish in the oven at 3:30. She realizes it must now be well after 5:00 and the casserole is still in the fridge. Maybe Paul will feel more like a freshly-delivered pizza anyway. From the way her stomach is churning, a light supper seems more in order in her own case.

A distant shout of 'Anastasia Juliet Geller!' does nothing for Mija's nerves as it is now obvious her friend is in trouble as well. My fault, she thinks. A wave of guilt rolls over her.

Paul smiles inwardly, pleased he won't have to call Richard to 'inform' on Tasha. He watches as Mija very slowly trudges home. Despite the distance, he can almost hear her thoughts as he observes her steps speed and slow. Paul often finds Mija's tendency toward dishonesty humorous given the expressive play she gives her emotions. At the moment, every move, every step betrays the child's feelings of guilt and some considerable trepidation.

When she is within a hundred feet of him, Mija's steps slow until only the fact she is facing him betrays forward motion. Her right hand smoothes at her hair, tries hopelessly to dust off her skirt. The smacking sound of her hand hitting the fabric causes her to finch inwardly, a reminder of the palm-to-skin contact that Mija fears will be her reward for this latest adventure with Tasha.

'Mija.'

The sound of her name again propels her forward, her heart thudding against her ribs. She can hear it beating inside her ears. From the expression on Paul's face when she dares look in his eyes, Mija can tell that despite her ministrations she is still quite a sight. She stops walking ten feet in front of Paul and the two stand face to face.

Mija shifts nervously from foot to foot, her lack of shoes making her feel even smaller. Paul's gaze isn't harsh or cold, but calm, quizzical and more than slightly disapproving. She cannot maintain eye contact and looks down at her toes, around at the grass, up at the sky. Paul waits, watching her obvious discomfort wordlessly. As he expects, within a minute the silence becomes more than she can take and Mija starts trying to explain.

'Paul, um . . . hi sweetie! Are you home early? I was just about to - . . . That is, I didn't . . . I mean - it isn't . . . You never told me that I couldn't - . . . Well sheesh, my report is almost done!'

The lie slips out almost before she realizes it. Is in the open, immediately too far into reality to be called back. Her only hope is to stand by it, support it as though it were the truth. Mija looks down quickly, hoping her face doesn't betray her. After all, it could be almost done for all he knows. She begins madly planning a late night writing session to make her lie true.

Paul crosses his arms and looks down at the grimy urchin in front of him, her gaze apparently held rapt by a fallen leaf just in front of his left shoe. He shakes his head slowly, not believing she would attempt such an obvious falsehood. Focusing on keeping his voice low and even, he says:

'Go inside, young lady. I'm not going to discuss this out here. I shouldn't think you would want to either.'

The maddeningly calm tone of Paul's voice makes her shake inside. Mija considers how many of her neighbors must have seen/heard her called home and know she's in trouble - as surely as she now knows she's in trouble - and her face burns. Without looking at Paul, she walks past him up the steps to the front door. He follows and stands behind her on the front porch. When she goes to open the door, the girl is so nervous she turns the latch to the right, forgetting for the moment that it opens to the left. She shakes the handle in frustration, deciding finally that the door must be locked. Mija reaches into her blazer for the keys, and then realizes they must have fallen out when she was on the swings, another probably-permanent casualty to the fine yellow sand.

She continues to search for a minute, two, unwilling to admit to Paul she's lost yet another set of house keys. As she checks the blazer pockets for the fifth time, she feels Paul's arm brush against her shoulder. Mija instinctively moves slightly closer to him, lengthening the contact. After nudging her smaller hands away with his larger, he turns the knob a full turn to the left and opens the door. He follows the girl through the portal.

Instead of heading toward the front room, Mija turns in the entry way, heading upstairs. Paul lays a detaining hand on her shoulder. There is no force, no real restraint, yet she halts immediately. A moment passes . . . two, then suddenly she turns and says,

'What?!'

Her tone is definitely at odds with her acquiescence to his touch.

'Come right in here with me.'

Releasing her arm, Paul turns and walks into the living room. Mija sighs slightly but doesn't follow. She stands frozen on the bottom step, her heart pounding. Paul's 'request' and her instinct to obey it war with her desire to go clean up and have a little time to think up an explanation before she speaks with him. She takes one deep breath, two. She hovers only for a moment, takes a last look in the direction of the living room, then gazes upstairs. She grits her teeth, feels her jaw muscles tighten and ache. But there is no way to stop them coming; her eyes have already begun to prick. Mija's eyes fill with tears of frustrated self-pity as she realizes that she is going to be spanked, the only real question is when. As her tears start to spill over, she runs up the stairs into the bedroom and slams the door.

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Hearing her footsteps on the stairs, then the sound of the door slamming from the living room, Paul closes his eyes and sighs. Why does Mija continually resist what she so obviously needs, and, on a deeper level, wants? He considers waiting for her to come back down. He knows she will; had she truly desired to escape she could have gone out the front door. Mija is simply very impulsive, without any self-discipline. Had his hand remained on her arm, she would not have pulled it away and run upstairs. Yet left on her own, her judgement suffered.

Paul realizes he's come back to today's original problem. Had he been home today, Mija would have sat in her crisp, neat uniform and worked dutifully on her homework. But with him gone, she had given into her desire to go play and had forgotten she was supposed to be studying. Wearing her uniform all day was supposed to remind her that her report was already late, but she simply forgot the assignment and wore it to the playground. Apparently a stronger reminder is required. Mija's lack of self-discipline is something Paul knows he needs to help her correct, that she wants him to help her correct, for her own good. Sighing again, he walks up the stairs.

As he approaches the door, he hears Mija rush toward it. He knocks once and turns the knob. Though the latch turns, the door does not push open. Paul realizes that she is leaning her weight against it, holding it closed. It would be easy to simply force the door open, push her back and physically overwhelm her resistance. But that's not what he wants. He wants Mija to get on top of her defiance, to confess her wrong and admit her need for correction. Paul lets go of the knob and steps back from the door. He imagines he can see her leaning against it on the other side, her dirty hands leaving smudged streaks on the door's white paint.

Using a calm, almost conversational tone, Paul says,

'Mija, we are going to talk, and it is not going to be with this door between us, love. I'm not going to shove my way in. You're going to let go of the door and take a step back right now.'

He stands nervously waiting, wondering what to do if she refuses.

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Paul's calm, even voice is both comfortingly familiar and fills her with a still more familiar dread. Without making a conscious choice, Mija nods her head and steps backward to the middle of the room. She whispers the 'kay' that he's waiting (hoping) to hear. He again knocks once, turns the handle and walks into the room.

Mija stands in the center of the room, looking down at her still-bare, dusty feet. She has already taken off her jacket, sash and tie. Paul notes that two buttons on her gray gymslip are undone. Her arms are at her side and her fists are clenched as her brain struggles to decide between self-control and resistance. Inside her head is an almost deafening roar. Paul's quiet voice penetrates the din.

'Look at me, Mija.'

Paul has stopped a few feet in front of her, his back to the bed.

Mija gives no sign she's heard, but her hands fist a tiny bit tighter.

'Young lady, look at me.' Paul finds that he's still trying to speak to the top of her brown head. As he watches, Mija's arms cross over her chest and her head lowers still further.

'No, I won't.'

The words are defiant, yet uttered in a plaintive and childish whisper, the tone of Mija's voice rising at the end as though asking him a question.

Paul mentally counts to ten. His voice will remain calm and even.

'Mija, look up at me right now. This is a very simple request.'

Mija's head turns up slightly. Paul touches her chin with his index finger, encouraging her to meet his eyes. The glow of defiance in them surprises him and his gaze become more severe.

As Mija stares up at Paul, she has to force herself not to look anywhere else. She longs for a rewind button for her life; there are so many places where the day could have been stopped and her judgements made better. The 'if onlys' are infinite. Her emotions, reeling toward tantrum a moment ago have calmed a bit. But she's surprised to feel anger. Why won't he just leave me alone? she thinks.

A small voice inside tells Mija that she's not angry with Paul, but with herself. Were he to turn and walk back downstairs her heart would break. But she tries to silence the voice. She doesn't want to be sorry or fair. Being mature is sometimes so hard. She crosses her arms tightly over her chest, unconsciously hugging herself to resist her desire to hug him, to tell him she's sorry and ask him to make it all right. Paul senses a crack in her resistance, takes both her hands in his right and steps back, sitting down on the edge of the bed so that Mija has to stand very close, facing him.

'What's going on here, Mija?'

Mija's mind reels as she considers possible answers to this question. She discards 'nothing' as not acceptable.

'I took a study break and Tasha and I were playing on the swings at the park -'

'Stop - that's not what we're talking about right now. What just happened?'

'Whatever do you mean, Paul?' Mija, struggling, keeps her expression wide-eyed and innocent.

Paul lets a bit of his exasperation show, finally.

'Why, young lady, are we up here, rather than in the living-room?'

Covering the prick of tears in her eyes, Mija looks down at the rug and shrugs her shoulders.

'I dunno. We just . . . are. . . .'

Mija's voice trails off. She knows this is not a real or appropriate answer.

'Mija, I'm asking you for the last time, why did you run up the stairs and then try to shut me out? I want the truth. What is going on?'

Mija looks at Paul helplessly, her eyes filling with tears. She starts to shrug again, sees the warning expression in Paul's eyes, and sighs.

'ididn'twanttotalktoyou,' she mumbles.

'I'm sorry, what were you saying?'

Mija takes a deep breath and tries to explain. Her voice comes out high, a little-girl whine.

'I wanted to wait until I could change to talk to you. I feel all dirty. I came upstairs to clean up first.'

Paul nods, indicating she should continue. His expression is gentle and concerned.

'I didn't think you'd really mind. . . .'

Mija feels her voice dry up as Paul's expression shifts from concern to sternness.

'That, Mija, is not true. You knew I'd be annoyed with you and that's why you attempted to keep me out. Right?'

'No, what I meant to say was -'

Mija tries to argue but can't without telling another lie. Her tears start to spill over.

She feels Paul pull her toward him and does not resist as she feels herself lifted over his lap. As the world shifts perspective, the blood moves to her head and her feet leave the floor, everything seems to click back into balance. Mija feels Paul's left arm slide around her waist, adjusting her body so she is in the correct position.

'This is the second lie you've told me in the past hour. We'll deal with this last one first. I don't want you lying to me, you know that, sweetheart, right?'

Mija nods miserably.

'And you know that because I love you, you'll always be punished for it, right?'

She nods again. But this is not enough of a reply.

'I expect an answer, young lady. Right, Mija?'

'Y-y-e-ss, Paul. I'm so-r-r-r-y,' comes out as a half wail.

'Thank you. I know you are, love.'

Mija hears his reassurances as she feels her skirt lifted and folded to her back. She lifts her hips slightly almost without even thinking about it as Paul slides her panties down. He rests his hand on her bottom, giving each side a smallish pat. Then his hand rises and comes down flat and hard on first her right cheek, then the left: smack, splot. Mija jerks her body slightly and feels Paul's arm tighten around her waist, securing her. Her mind empties as she gives herself over to the inevitable. She is over Paul's lap again, being spanked - hurt, yes. But also safe, loved. As the red marks move out from his hand's impact, the sting does as well. Her feet kick up slightly, alternately.

Knowing he and Mija are due for further discussion of today's procrastination and lying, Paul only uses his hand, but he quickly covers her entire bottom with firm, crisp hand-spanks. The color shifts from pink to reddish as the spanks continue, her whimpers of protest changing to sporadic then steady crying.

After several minutes, Mija is crying in earnest and her bottom looks red and sore. Her kicks are no longer expressions of protest, but pain - as if by moving she might somehow escape. Paul delivers six more hard spanks to each cheek, then carefully replaces her panties and sets her gently on her feet, giving her a reassuring and loving hug. She embraces him tightly, crying into his chest.

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'Are you okay now, sweetheart?' Paul asks, his voice gentle, his eyes soft and warm.

Mija's sobs quiet, her tears have already all but stopped. Her hands reach back to rub under her gray skirt. She hesitates over her answer however. She knows what will happen when she says yes. Even Mija is not so much of a brat to think this spanking was all today merited. She straightens her shoulders.

'Yeah,' she mumbles.

'Good.'

Paul's voice becomes sterner - still gentle but with a firm undercurrent. This is not a tone meant to encourage expectations of productive debate.

'I want you to know what's going to happen now because I want you to follow these instructions exactly. Is this clear? If you have questions, stop me and ask, because I'm going to expect you to do this perfectly. Understand?'

Mija's heart drops into the pit of her stomach, but she nods.

'No. I want an answer from you, Mija.'

She bites her tongue to keep from pointing out that a nod is an answer, and says, 'Yes, I do understand.'

'Good girl. I want you to clean yourself up, put your hair back in a single braid and change into your plaid strict uniform. Take your time, love. Make sure you have it right; there will be an inspection. For each infraction you'll get an extra dozen with the hairbrush. Is that clear?'

Mija pales slightly, flinching at the words 'extra', 'dozen' and 'hairbrush'. Their use signals a long hairbrush spanking - the sort she knows that Paul knows hurts the very most, not just during, but for hours (once, even days) afterward. She wants to ask 'how many?' How many times will the brush rise and fall? Not because she wants to negotiate, but just to know. Ultimately, she can't ask, the words are not able to pass her lips. Besides, she knows he'd not tell her anyway. There is no reason for her to know. There will be as many as there needs to be. That is her answer, that is the only answer.

'Yes, Paul.'

'When you are finished, take your hairbrush from the bathroom, bring it downstairs and report to my study.'

'kaaaay,' in a very quiet whisper.

There is a hint, the smallest hint of a whine of a pout in Mija's reply. The change doesn't go unnoticed. Paul's gaze becomes sterner, his voice more firm.

'What will happen then, Mija?'

She shifts her weight from foot to foot, fidgeting. Telling herself it isn't real until she says it. Avoids saying it.

'I'm waiting.'

The hum of the electric clock fills the room. Mija is suddenly aware of street noise. She reminds herself to close the window.

She shrugs, how should she know?

Paul takes both of her hands, but does not pull her to him. The threat is clear however.

'Mija, what will happen when you come downstairs? In fact, what will happen if you force me to ask you to answer me again?'

Yielding to the inevitable, Mija finally replies.

'I'll get punished.'

'That's right. Because you've been a very naughty little girl. And how are naughty girls punished?'

Mija looks up at Paul, her eyes pleading with him, 'don't make me have to say it.' But there is no sympathy there. His eyes tell her that she answers him now or is spanked and then answers. She takes a deep breath.

And stalls once more.

'They get corner time.'

Paul's mouth twitches slightly, either in anger or amusement, she can't tell. But his voice is calm as he follows up.

'Yes. And after you do corner time, what will happen?'

'You'll talk to me.'

Paul's eyebrow rises, his foot silently tapping annoyance. 'Yes, I will. And then what?'

Can she stall longer? His eyes say no.

'You'll spank me.'

This last in a whisper, finally a relief to them both.

'That's right, Mija. I'm going to take you over my lap and spank your bare bottom very hard because you've been a very naughty girl today and you deserve it. Don't you?'

There is a long pause and they both seem to hold their breath. Mija blushes hot, shakes her head slightly once, but can't say no.

Then it comes, the admission.

'Yes.'

'Off you go then. Get ready and I'll expect you in my study.'

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As she hears Paul walk downstairs, Mija begins changing out of her sandy uniform. A quick check of the gymslip and blazer confirms both will go to the dry cleaners before she wears them again. As she shakes the two out, sand falls in showers around the room. But, she's happy to note, most lands and vanishes into the rug and not on the hardwood floor.

She goes into the bathroom, hides the bathbrush under the sink (not out of fear, you understand, this is simply instinctive), then showers and washes her hair quickly and emerges clean. After glancing at the clock, Mija opens the taps and runs a hot bath, complete with a large quantity of vanilla-scented bubbles and a pink duck-shaped sponge. No point in rushing this.

As her bath fills, Mija begins calmly laying out at the end of the bed the strict plaid uniform Paul has 'requested'. First the shirt, white and crisp, practically crackling with heavy starch, fresh from the laundry. Next the dark green and navy kilt, its pleats carefully pressed in. She rests the crested navy blazer next to it, lint-free and perfectly brushed. On top she lays her school tie, dark green with fine yellow stripes. From the closet she takes a pair of black leather oxfords, shiny and polished, and places them on the floor at the foot of the bed. Then, finally, she walks over to the dresser, and removes a pair of navy blue cotton knee-socks and navy regulation school knickers.

She looks critically over the clothing spread out across the bed and decides each element is there and perfect. Despite her fear of the coming punishment, Mija feels a sense of calm as she looks at the uniform that marks her as a carefully-cared-for child and holds her in bonds of security and discipline. She retreats, less nervous now, to her slightly-too-full bath, noting that only a very small amount of water has sloshed over the side.

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After emptying the hot water tank (twice), and shrivelling her fingers and toes to pinkish prunes, Mija realizes it is clearly time to get out of the bath and dress. She dries herself, leaving the plug in the tub so there will be no sound of water draining to tell Paul her bath is over. After drying her hair and braiding it, Mija slowly dresses in the carefully-assembled uniform: heavy cotton school knickers, newly-ironed shirt (collar ever so stiff and starchy) buttoned to just below the neck. She leaves the last button undone for as long as possible. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Mija pulls on her navy cotton knee-socks, then stands to fasten the kilt around her waist, slowly smoothing the already-perfect pleats over the starchy shirt. She slips her feet into the black shoes, tying each in a quick bow, then tying them again in a deft double bow.

But Mija's hands shake as she attempts to tie the tie in a careful knot. On her first try, the thin end pokes out from behind the fat. Her second attempt falls apart completely. Walking to the mirror, Mija tries again, this time watching her own hands fumble as if they belonged to someone else. She feels slightly queasy - her brain busily telling her that her still-lightly-stinging bottom will soon be very sore. There is dread, fear, but under it all - hidden even from herself - a delightful anticipation of the moment when it's all over, atonement inscribed on her body and forgiveness verbalized.

She ties the tie one last time, this time ignoring the thin end, still a few centimetres longer than the thick. Finally, she crosses over to her dressing table and chooses a one-and-a-half-inch wide green and navy striped grosgrain ribbon, then makes a bow at the end of her braid. Looking in the mirror, Mija sees her schoolgirl self looking back and smiles a wry and ironic grin. It is time to go downstairs.

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The girl stands outside the study a long while, listening for noises within. Even inches away from the heavy door, Mija can hear nothing. Yet she is sure Paul is in there, maybe marking papers, maybe doodling, certainly waiting for her. She imagines his breathing, his heartbeat. After several hour-long minutes pass, Mija takes a deep breath and knocks. There is a pause as she waits for the inevitable 'Come in'. But when the invitation comes, she's suddenly panicked.

She's come down without the hairbrush.

Not answering, but spinning on her heel, Mija races up the stairs to her room, slams open the bathroom door, grabs her brush and rushes back down the stairs. As her shoes hit the bottom step, she sees Paul at the study door and knows he heard her run upstairs. She looks down, sure - or thinking she's sure - he thought she had run away from him again. He holds the door open for her, ushering her into the study. In the corner she sees her slant-top school desk, a stack of clean white paper on the surface. But her attention is riveted by the high stool set in the middle of the room. Despite the fact that she's holding the hairbrush, the ping-pong-bat-shaped school paddle rests on the stool, its pine surface gleaming wickedly. Mija looks up at Paul, her eyes suddenly wide. She feels her heart thump with panic, her mouth drying.

Paul reaches out, takes the hairbrush from her and sets it on his desk. He looks at her a second, seems to sense her fear, and pulls her into a tight embrace. She stands there, still in his arms as her heart slows and she can breathe again. She smells the cotton of his shirt and wants to stand there forever.

'I'm sorry, Paul, really I am,' Mija whispers as she feels herself held tightly, fiercely.

'Shh, shh, mi'jita. I know you are. And we'll make it right. I promise you that.'

Paul squeezes Mija, holding her close once more.

'But we still need to go through with this. It's really very serious. You know that, don't you?'

Paul feels Mija start at the word 'serious' and then nod slowly, sadly. He pulls her away from him gently, turns her face upwards toward him.

'However much this hurts, Mija, never forget that I love you.'

'I won't,' she whispers. 'I truly am sorry.'

'I know, love.' Releasing her chin, Paul leads her over to the chair he's set in the space before his desk. She sits carefully, gingerly, moving as though she has already been spanked. She sits, at first perched on the edge of the seat, feeling the gentle pressure on her shoulders from Paul's hands guiding her back so she is making use of the backrest.

'Mija, I think we have some things to discuss here today, you and me.'

Mija nods, slowly, not looking forward to the talk, but dreading the coming spanking even more. Remembering her voice as Paul remains silent, she expands her reply to 'yes, we do'.

'But first, let me inspect your uniform.'

Mija stands obediently, knowing this drill well. As she feels Paul's eyes travel quickly over the smartly-shined black shoes, her neatly pulled-up and folded socks, the perfectly pleated plaid skirt, kilt pin modestly placed and fastened. But she all but hears them screech to a halt at the collar of her shirt.

'Mija -'

'Wait!' she exclaims, hearing her voice rising with a child's anxiety. 'I can explain! I just couldn't get the skinny end to go straight, I really did try.'

Paul nods as though in agreement.

'The tie is always a difficult part of the uniform for you, isn't it, love?'

Mija nods slowly as Paul reaches out, unties the tie and pulls it slowly out of the collar. He stops and looks at her collar then back at her face. At that moment she remembers her still-undone button and closes her eyes. There is no way to excuse this, the instructions had been clear, so very clear, no shortage of time.

Still she must explain.

'I forgot it, Paul. Really!'

Paul says nothing.

Her hands rise to button the collar, but his hands push them firmly away. Lifting her chin, he uses both hands, slowly fastening it. The collar is snug now, just barely uncomfortable. He then turns her around, puts the tie around her neck and ties it neatly at her throat. Mija feels his hands on her shoulders as he turns her firmly back around. Patiently, he straightens her collar, tie, smoothing so everything is just so, perfect at last. Mija stands up still straighter, strangely proud now that everything is right and she looks as smart as she can.

She stands very still as Paul paces back to the desk and then turns towards her.

'Two uniform violations, Mija. How very careless. I'll assume your knickers are regulation -'

Mija gives a small nod of agreement.

'- I'll find out for myself in just a moment. Sit please.' Paul indicates the chair.

Mija sits again, her stomach already churning. She knows where she will be that 'moment'. Paul sits on the edge of his desk. Opposite to her, close enough to touch. His hands grip the desk on either side of him. His green-brown eyes seem to stare too deeply into her own and she looks down quickly.

'Mija -' Paul's voice is soft, but in it there is warning there as well as reproof. She pulls her gaze back to his.

'We need to talk now, me and you. I'm very disappointed in your behavior today.'

The girl gulps hard. She is ashamed and cannot answer, but swallows again and nods sadly. Hearing that he's disappointed in her hurts so. Mija wonders if he knows that.

'Whatever were you thinking? You promised only this morning you would finish that paper today.'

There is a very long pause as Mija grows more and more tense, shifting a bit on the hard chair. As the silence lengthens, she realizes she must speak. She starts and stops, her voice sounding strange and small even to her own ears.

'I want-wanted to go and play. . . .'

Paul nods slightly, indicating not that he agrees, but that he hears her. His voice is very stern as he replies.

'I wanted, no, I expected your work would be done today. I had a right to expect that, didn't I?'

Mija feels her eyes start to prick and she blinks hard behind her wire-frame glasses.

'Young lady, why should I have been able to expect that?'

This last demands an answer and Mija answers in a still-smaller voice, 'because I promised.'

She breaks his gaze and stares down at her lap, slipping off her glasses to wipe her eyes. Paul reaches out and gently takes her glasses from her and lays them beside him on the desk. He lifts her chin so she must look up again, and softens his voice at her answer.

'That's right. Because you promised. And I expect and must trust you to keep the promises you make to me and, most importantly, to yourself.

Mija nods again. She wants to argue, wants somehow to show him how hard it is, that life is not so simple as this. But she can't. There are no words to explain that she knew what she was doing was wrong, that it was the very wrongness that had made the day so bright and the play with Tasha so wild and fun. Listening to Paul, who always keeps his promises to her and trusts her, Mija feels the shame become overwhelming as the pangs of guilt hit.

Paul's voice continues, going quite stern again, sounding resolved and determined.

'But you didn't keep your word, did you?'

Mija closes her eyes and a tear trickles down each cheek. But she squares her shoulders a bit and answers.

'No, I didn't.'

'How much of the paper is still to be done?'

'It's almost finished, really.'

Mija is surprised to hear her own voice repeating the earlier lie. She looks away quickly, knowing she's too ashamed to tell Paul how little she has done.

'Almost finished? As in, much further along than yesterday?'

Mija nods, hesitantly at first and then with more vigor.

'How much did you do after I left today, Mija?'

She shifts a little in her chair and shrugs.

'I'm not sure really.'

Paul's expression changes, hardens, indicating that he doesn't find this answer acceptable. His voice leaves no doubt.

'Miss, I'm not playing here. How much work did you do today?'

Panic rises in Mija's chest. For a single heart-thudding moment she considers the possible 'big lie'. But as she stares into Paul's eyes, she realizes he knows. There is love and softness in the green-grayness there. How could she disappoint him with the truth? Yet, how could she stare into them and tell him another lie?

Her chest rises and falls once. Twice.

'Abouttwentyminutes.' She spits the truth out, speaking the words as though she fears telling yet another lie should she speak too slowly.

Paul, she realizes, has braced himself for something - her lie, she thinks. He relaxes upon hearing the truth. There is a long pause during which Mija considers how very nice it would be if she had finished the paper, what fun the two of them might be having now instead of this painful conversation. She grimaces slightly as the word 'painful' passes through her mind. The conversation will only become more so.

'Twenty minutes. I am disappointed in you, Mija. You didn't even give yourself a chance, did you?'

'It wasn't going very well -'

'How late is the paper now? Very late, isn't it?'

'Two weeks?' Mija replies, the question in her tone arguing that perhaps two weeks isn't really a very long time.

'You've inconvenienced your teacher, yourself and me, haven't you?'

Mija nods and wonders how could she have been so very bad. Regret washes over her in waves.

'Going to school is your job, Mija. There is plenty of time to play with Tasha and do all kinds of other fun things after the work is done.'

Mija looks down at her lap. She repeats, 'I'm sorry.' Tears fall, landing on her hands.

Paul nods. 'I know you are, Mija.' A longish pause. 'Stand up and remove your blazer.'

Saying this, Paul walks over to the high stool, picks up the paddle in his right hand and sits down.

'Come here. Let's get this done with.'

Mija stands slowly, removes her blazer and lays it neatly on the chair she has just vacated. Then she freezes a moment, watching Paul hold the paddle in his right hand. She walks across to him, her brain madly calculating plans of escape while, at the same time, knowing there are none. The punishment is inevitable, and, she finally admits (but only to herself), deserved. Though she walks slowly, it takes her only a few seconds to cross the room and stop, standing just in front of Paul.

He says nothing for now, but guides her to his right side. She bends over his lap without being told. This ritual of correction is far older than either of them, the steps repeated with growing confidence by the two of them. Familiarity, repetition, increasing the dance's breathless power.

Laying her weight on his lap, she starts to pull herself forward, rising to her toes as her head moves toward the floor. Mija feels Paul's hands on either hip lifting her the final distance. She gasps, surprised always at the feeling of childishness as her feet lose contact with the floor.

From her position over Paul's lap, Mija's eyes seem to swirl as they trace the carpet's lacy vine pattern of red and green. Her breath comes in ragged gasps sounding half sigh, half sob, her face flushes red. She tries to slow her breathing, tries to resign her body to the pain, sting sure to come. Her collar tightens around her throat and she slides her finger underneath it, trying to loosen it with her finger.

She closes her eyes then opens them. How long has she been over his lap. A minute? Two? Forever?

Every nerve now raw with anticipation, Mija feels Paul's fingers brush the back of her thighs with a feather touch as he grasps the hem of her kilt.

The air feels shockingly cool on her warm legs. It chills and tightens the skin. Mija stifles a surprised giggle as her skin prickles into goose flesh. As she feels Paul fussily folding the pleats of the kilt then tucking up the tails of her shirt, Mija's anxiety rises further. She says nothing, but protests mutely with her body, squirming as his fingers slip beneath the tight elastic of her knickers.

'Be still, Mija.'

Despite this direction, Mija whimpers as she feels her knickers gathered below her bottom, then pulled down to just above her knees. She tenses and relaxes, anticipating and even feeling the start of the spanking a hundred times over in the seconds before the first smack.

Paul's hand descends gently in a pat. Mija gasps, ready for it to hurt, ready to cry out. Instead there is a caress, another pat. She whimpers again, trying to tell him to stop - to start. Mija's ambivalence causes the moment to lengthen to a lifetime. Can Paul possibly feel this too?

Her musings are shattered as his hand smacks hard into her bottom - a surprise finally even after all the warnings. The sting is immediate, located at the single point of contact. It is followed by another on the other side and she breathes deeply, not counting as the smacks land harder and faster, shutting her eyes and seeing only darkness punctuated by brilliant bursts of color as each spank finds (and makes) its mark.

Mija can say nothing at first, her mind repeating to her over and over, 'I'm being spanked.' But as she takes a deep breath she feels tears pricking behind her eyes. Her breath becomes little gasps and she wiggles and whimpers a bit.

'Oh, hurts!'

There is no pause, but she hears Paul's voice through the cadence of spanks.

'It's supposed to hurt. I mean it to.'

Twelve more spanks land at the tops of her thighs. Mija feels her tears flow freely.

'Why are you being punished, Mija?'

It takes several moments, during which six more smacks land, for Mija to gasp out, 'Because I didn't do what I was supposed to.'

'That's right.'

Paul's hand lands twelve more hard spanks, bringing Mija's bottom to a uniform hot pink. Without pausing, he picks up the paddle and continues to spank Mija hard and fast. She stiffens her bottom and begins to kick and even try to get up. But Paul's left arm simply wraps around her tighter. He begins to spank the tops of her legs again. Right, left, back and forth, landing each in almost the same spot as the previous.

'Nooo! Please! Not there!'

Mija chokes out a protest as her cries become sobs. The burning sting of the paddle feels unbearable.

'Lie still and take your spanking like a good girl, Mija.'

She grips the chair rung and lies quietly, struggling to move only as the paddle impacts. Paul delivers a final hard twelve, all at the point where her bottom and thighs meet. Resistance spent, Mija lies across Paul's lap and sobs, feeling like nothing so much as a naughty girl.

Paul reaches down and pulls her knickers up to just below her bright red cheeks and tucks her skirt into its waistband. He lays his hand on her bottom and feels the heat of her smacked skin. The he takes a firm hold of both Mija's upper arms and guides her gently to her feet. Her hands reach back at once, but he takes her two in his own before she can rub away the sting. Her sobs have stopped, but tears still fall and she looks to him for comfort. Paul squeezes her hands gently.

'That spanking was for not doing as you promised, love.'

Mija nods.

'I'm sorry, Paul.'

Tears spill over her cheeks and slide unchecked to her chin.

'I know you are. But you also lied to me, and not just once.'

He watches as Mija looks both fearful and rebellious, her hands trying to tug themselves from his grasp.

'No, please. No more.'

'Mija, you are not deciding this. It is going to happen. Accept it and do as you are told. This is not the first time I've had to punish you for lying to me, is it?'

Mija looks down. The expression on her face is no longer fear. It is instead more of a pouting sulk.

'Answer me, young lady.'

'No,' she reluctantly agrees. 'Not the first.'

'In just a moment you are to go and stand with your nose in that corner, feet together and your hands at your sides. You are to think about all the time you've wasted, how much better things will be when you finish this paper. Is that clear?'

Mija nods.

'You will keep your skirt and panties just as they are. Understood?'

Mija flushes and looks away then back.

'Yes, sir.'

Paul gives her hands one last squeeze and turns her toward the corner.

'Right then, off you go.'

Looking resentful but acquiescent, Mija walks slowly over to the north-west corner of the study - her corner. There she stands as directed, feeling Paul's eyes upon her, embarrassing and reassuring. Her eyes follow the hair's-breadth crack six inches above the floor to where it disappears in the baseboard molding. There could be a spider in there, she thinks. Shivering slightly, she tries to remember what Paul asked her to think about. Idly she strokes her skirt, fingertips brushing the hem. Her eyes close as she remembers. How much time has she wasted? Hours. Maybe days. The assignment should be long finished. Her brain drifts past the question into the silent meditation that corner time has left her familiar with. There is nothing she can do about the past. The spanking to come will happen. Then this naughtiness will be past and she can start anew, be a good girl and finish the paper.

Mija wonders how long she's stood there. Her feet suddenly hurt in her shiny shoes. She wonders what Paul's doing. He's so very quiet, there is no sound of pages turning, papers rustling, or even breathing. She cannot turn to look, however, and so focuses again on standing still.

[horizontal rule]

Finally, an eternity (or some space of time close to one) passes.

'Alright, Mija. You can let down your skirt and pull up your knickers.'

Mija complies, feeling the smooth cotton give her bottom a soothing rub, wincing as the tight elastic bites into the very tender skin just below her bottom. It's easier to stand still knowing that her bottom is covered by her skirt rather than being on display as though an object of sorts.

'It's time, Mija. Come over here to me.'

Suddenly, knowing the spanking still to come, the corner looks better, safer. Mija turns around reluctantly, walking slowly over to Paul who's seated on the edge of the desk. Her bottom still stings a bit and she knows it must still hold a least a pink glow beneath her temporarily replaced knickers. This next spanking will be received by a tender target indeed. She sits gingerly on the chair, discovering with relief that while her bottom still stings, sitting is not painful. Mija looks across at Paul, but his expression tells nothing of his emotions.

He starts without preamble.

'You know better than to lie to me, Mija.'

It is a statement, not a question, but still she nods in agreement.

'Why did you, then?'

Mija's brain reels as she asks the same of herself. Why? Does he really expect her to answer this?

Her tone is somewhat defiant as she offers him the truth.

'Because I wished it was true.'

Paul's face softens a bit.

'I know you know the difference between the truth and a lie, don't you, Mija?'

Looking shamefacedly down at her lap, Mija bites her lip and nods.

'Lying does a lot of damage; you know that. I believe you when you tell me things and I can't help you with your work if you lie to me about your progress. I don't want to mistrust you.'

Tears well again in the girl's eyes. What a terrible day!

'I don't want you to either. I'm sorry.'

'You're not going to lie to me anymore, Mija. Lying is stupid - it solves nothing and always always makes problems worse.'

As she listens, Mija hears the frustration in Paul's voice and her shame deepens. Any urge to correct him, to tell him she will lie to him again of course, vanishes. She just wants this to be over and convinces herself there will never be a 'next time'.

'I promise. Please, Paul. I'll get to work right now. Don't - don't spank me any more, please!'

Her voice rises with an edge of desperation and panic by the end.

Mija catches her breath as she watches Paul's emotions play across his face. He loves her, she can see that. He's tired and looks sad. She follows his gaze to the stool, to the brush lying on the floor beside the stool.

Mija looks over at him and shakes her head. Nonononononono!

She hears him sigh, watches as he walks over to the stool and sits down.

'No, Mija, you chose this. If you hadn't lied to me your punishment would be over now. But you did. And that made what you did much worse. We agreed that lying was very serious and that you would always be punished for it. So now it's time. You are going over my lap for a very hard hairbrush spanking.'

His hand indicates both the brush on the floor and the open space on his lap.

Mija swallows hard. She hates hearing the words, which bring with them images, and worse still, memories of the sensation of getting paddled sore, so very far beyond tears.

'Come right over here, Mija.'

Mija notices her hands are gripping the seat of the chair, holding her rooted to the wood.

'Please, Paul. You already spanked me way ha-a-ard!'

Her voice rises at the end. Whining more than a bit.

Paul's voice is even, firm and resolute.

'Now, Mija.'

He notices her foot kicking the chair rungs and his eyes narrow.

'Right now. Are you going to make me count?'

She throws him a pleading look before pushing herself onto her feet, knocking over the chair. Mija looks at it, and at Paul, then rights it. She trudges slowly over to the stool, eyes firmly fixed on the floor, stopping just in front of Paul.

He reaches out and guides her to his right side, bending and lifting her across his lap. She feels her feet leave the floor, struggling a bit as he slides her further over. His left arm wraps around her waist as her balance becomes his to control. Mija kicks, scissoring her legs, but she is held firm.

'Stop it! Mija, do want me to spank the backs of your thighs too?'

Mija freezes as two hard slaps sting the backs of her legs. She feels tears rise into her throat.

'Wait! Please, I stopped ki-'

She silences herself as she feels her skirt folded up again, panties gently drawn down to just above her knees.

There is no reassuring patting. She feels Paul reach down and pick up the hairbrush, sees his arm through her view framed by the chair rungs and her feet. The oval wooden head, hard and cold, hovers above her bottom a second as Paul pauses, tightens his grip, pulls back his arm, and wallops the hairbrush down onto her bottom.

Mija's response is immediate: she gasps and kicks out her legs straight behind her. As she gasps for air, the brush comes down again and again. She struggles to get up, yelling out that it hurts, but Paul holds her with ease. His arm doesn't slow but swings up and down, connecting with Mija's tender bottom, marking her upper thighs, her sit-spot, with crimson ovals.

Her gasps blend together as her body tenses, then screams out in hurt. Still Paul's arm swings up and down, the brush landing, swat, swat, SMACK, fast and hard. When she runs out of air, the crying starts in jagged sobs, her brain shattering into white pain as she wails. Her eyes are squeezed shut and she no longer sees the carpet, Paul's leg, or even the darkness. Her hand grips the chair rungs tightly as she squeezes, seeing blue sky, earth, herself falling.

'Sooooooorry!' breaks out as a scream from the cries as her body goes limp.

'I know,' says Paul. 'Now take your spanking like a good girl.'

His voice is solid, centering, as the brush swings pain into her bottom again.

Finally, after landing three more on each side, he puts down the brush and continues spanking with just his hand, but hard, as she lies over his knees and sobs.

At last the spanking stops - but the crying doesn't. And as she lies over his lap, Paul slides her panties off, pats her backside, and turns her over so she's sitting on his lap. He whispers to her plans for the next week. There are lots of rules, structure, early bedtimes, lines, strict uniforms and spankings. Mija cries, her tears wetting his shirt, and agrees to everything.

Swallowing hard, she tries to speak.

'I'm gonna be good you know. Really really good.'

'I know you are, sunshine. You know, no matter how naughty you are, you're always my good girl.'

She nods again, barely noticing him leading her up to her room. Faced with going to bed, Mija starts to cry again, somehow feeling lonely. Paul helps her get ready and sits beside her as she curls up on her side, bottom still glowing beneath the covers.

Paul thinks a moment, then takes down 'Alice', opens at the marker and begins to read. He smiles as she falls asleep before he reaches the bottom of the first page.

[horizontal rule]

Late that night, across town the phone rings.

'Tasha! Psst, Tasha! Are ya there? Do ya wanna tell first or should I?'

[horizontal rule]

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