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Mia's voice was high in accusation and Paul
seemed to waver a bit in his resolve.
"I don't. Not always anyway."
His feet shuffled a little as he wondered why he was feeling
guilty. He was the one who'd finally decided to confront
her about always getting him into trouble. How did she
always twist him around anyway?
She pouted at him a moment and then smiled
brightly at him, the sudden change melting his heart.
"Anyway, that's not why I came today
anyway. You've got to come out with me today." Mia's
dramatic arm gesture took in the window behind her.
Paul backed up a bit, reminding himself that
he wasn't to give in to any of Mia's ideas today. He
had problem sets to solve. And she might very well check
today. His exercise book had been unexamined for too many evenings
in a row.
"Um, not today, Mia. I've got problem
sets -" He pointed toward his old-fashioned school desk
where the maths book and blank page stared back in silent rebuke.
"But, but . . . they're hatching!
If you don't come see today you'll miss seeing them come out
of their eggs. I ran all the way in the rain to
come get you." Her braids dripped, verifying her words
and wetting the floor all at once.
He looked at her pleadingly. Surely she could
understand, he couldn't go with her, not today.
"Come on, Paul, please? They're our
hummingbirds after all."
Well, that much was undeniable. The nest had
fallen from the tree right at their feet. Had he not climbed
up (tearing his short pants in the process) and settled it on
a firmer branch, the eggs would have been eaten by ants. Not
The tearing of the short pants had gotten
him a slippering he still felt (well, only when he thought about
it). She hadn't been impressed with his daring feat of
birds-nest-saving. His ears burned when he thought of the lecture
on tidiness. Something else burned too, but he didn't want to
think about that.
"I'm sorry, Mia, but I really need to
do my maths today. I'll come with you tomorrow, I promise."
The dark-haired girl lowered her head to look
up at him with large brown eyes. They seem so sad, he thought.
Like the only thing she'd ever wanted was him with her today.
Mia slowly wiped one eye then the other as Paul looked away
nervously, hoping she wasn't about to cry.
"I mean, I have these problem sets due.
And - and well, they have to be done. . . ." His voice
trailed off lamely as she sniffled sadly.
Mia looked up again, nodding sadly. Her every
expression gave appearance of having given up the fight, conceding
"I guess you can't. I mean, even though
it's so nearby. And we could walk there very fast. An hour is
probably too long for you to get away. Even though I did run
all the way here. I'll just go and watch them on my own. No
Mia turned and, slump shouldered, walked slowly
back to the window.
Paul felt his resolve slip. What was an hour
really, he thought?
It wasn't quite yet dark when Paul slipped
back in through his window, praying the room was as empty as
it appeared from outside. If he could just get to the closet
and change into a clean shirt, he was sure she wouldn't notice.
Damp shoes quickly stashed under the radiator,
he quickly padded to the closet, scrubbing his hands on his
wool short pants to clear off the worst of their grime. Paul's
now-filthy shirt and collar were off in an instant, a last layer
of dirt quickly removed from his face, added to the marks of
his afternoon adventures. What was it about Mia that was always
so hard on his uniforms anyway? He buried the shirt in the bottom
of the laundry basket, slipped the clean one on, buttoned it
all the way up to the neck, re-tied his tie and was just washing
his hands clean in the basin when she walked in.
"Good boy, already washing up for dinner.
Did you finish your problems sets then?"
Paul swallowed hard, the collar suddenly choking
him. Was that pride he saw in her eyes?
She smiled at him, her large, bright dark
eyes holding his for a second or two, her hand softly brushing
the downy hair on his cheek.
"I'm proud of you, Paul. It isn't easy
to study all afternoon, but I'm sure the work will stand you
in good stead."
He steeled himself then nodded, resisting
the urge to confess his afternoon adventures. It wasn't that
he meant to lie after all. But there was no excuse for worrying
her. Besides, he could get the sets done before tomorrow morning.
She need never know.
"When you're finished washing your hands,
come downstairs and we'll have our tea."
As he listened, her sensible low heels clicked
away and down the stairs. Paul breathed deeply for the first
time since she'd entered and stashed his exercise book under
his mattress. There'd be plenty of time to work later, he promised
The flashlight rolled down the quilt again,
its small circle of light bouncing away from his exercise book.
Paul swore under his breath. The problems were more involved
than he'd realized and, though he could do them, were taking
more time than he had expected.
A clock downstairs chimed once then twice.
Surely he could risk the bedside lamp. No
one could be up this late.
Paul turned the light on with a click
that seemed to echo within the quiet house. He sighed and lowered
his head, his pencil pressing hard into the pad as he worked
"-?" His voice failed him as he
tried to think of a suitable reply.
"Well, young man? I'm waiting . . ."
Clearly she was asking what he was doing up.
Maybe she hadn't noticed.
She walked across the room to the edge of
"Reading? Dear boy, it's three
in the morning! You need to be up in less than four hours. What
on earth could you be reading this time of night?"
Paul groaned inwardly. Four hours?!? How had
time passed so quickly?
"Did you not hear me? What are you reading
at this hour?"
Not waiting further for a response, her hand
reached out and took the exercise book, eyes widening as she
recognized it and took in the pencil in his hand.
"Miss, I was just finishing the last
few -" Paul's voice broke off as he found himself unable
She looked hard into his eyes, making him
wish the pool of light they stood in would shrink until it swallowed
them both. They both stood motionless a moment, and then she
reached out, took his ear and led him unprotestingly to the
corner. Paul could smell the vanilla and gardenia scent on her
dressing gown as his own bare feet padded beside her.
"Push your nose right in, young master
Bailey. I don't want a sound out of you for five minutes."
In what seemed to be one motion, she reached in front of him,
untied his pajamas and unceremoniously lowered them to his ankles.
Paul nodded, his forehead touching the V where
the walls met. The cool was calming as he took deep breaths,
his brain teasing him with memories of the rainy walk in the
woods. And images of Mia's short plaid skirt dancing ahead of
him, always and forever just out of reach.
"You can get dressed now and come over
here to me please."
He pulled up his pajamas and turned to see
her seated on his desk chair, which had been moved to the centre
of the room. His bedside lamp was turned so the chair and her
were bathed in a pool of brightness, a circle of light in the
gloomy room. Paul noted that her dressing gown was tucked well
around her, her feet firmly on the floor. One encased in a leather
and tapestry slipper, the other bare. He swallowed hard, mouth
dry. Before his eyes even took it in, Paul knew the other slipper
was firmly held in her right hand. That knowledge made his bottom
clench as he walked slowly across to her.
"Now kneel down, master Bailey,"
she said, as he finally stood in front of her.
He knelt quickly, hands folded behind him
for this was not his first lesson.
Her hand cupped his chin as she spoke to him
in a kind voice.
"You know you've been quite naughty,
young man. I'm not entirely sure how you spent your afternoon,
but I suspect it wasn't hard at work on your problem
sets as you led me to believe."
He started to speak, but she hushed him.
"I'm not going to demand you answer me
now - we'll talk more of this in the morning. Just now, I'm
going to give a very naughty little boy the sound spanking he
deserves for being out of bed so late at night. Now, over my
He stood still while she lowered his pajama
bottoms and helped him over her knees. The night air felt like
a cool breeze across his skin and Paul shivered and tensed,
calming as her left hand rubbed the small of his back before
wrapping around him and holding him fast.
Lying across her lap, Paul reflected on how
often adventures with Mia seemed to end this way. It was really
all her fault. As his governess's cool hand lightly brushed
the skin of his bottom, he shivered. She stroked him as she
"Tomorrow we'll talk. But during this
spanking, you had better think seriously about honest and full
disclosure, young man. You don't even want to consider where
incomplete or dishonest answers might get you."
Nervous, Paul squirmed a bit and clenched
his bottom reflexively. The slipper made its "tap-tap-tap"
on each cheek before rising and falling with a loud "smack!".
Paul bit his lip as she spanked back and forth, each smack landing
crisply and burning that much more than the one before it.
Though he tried to be brave, it didn't seem
long at all before the steadily-increasing tempo of crisp smacks
made him squirm, then kick, causing a flurry of smacks to his
upper thighs. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying hard to remember
to breathe, to not cry out. But oh did it sting!
Her grip held him tight so he couldn't escape.
To keep from crying, Paul held his breath until tears welled
in his eyes. His bottom felt on fire and still the smacks continued.
"Aside from anything else, when I turn
your light out, young man, I expect you to keep your light off
and yourself in bed until morning. Is that clear?"
Paul was nodding even before she finished.
"Yes. Yes, miss," he gasped.
One last flurry of a dozen slipper smacks
and it was over. He lay across her lap breathing deeply for
a minute or two until she finally told him he could get up and
dressed. Her voice was soft again, her hands gentle as they
helped his fumbling fingers get his pajama bottoms up and re-adjusted.
Paul stood, feeling dizzy and abashed, wiping his face on his
sleeve as she returned her slipper to her small foot.
She embraced him briefly, holding him close
to her and then, with a small smack to his bottom, sent him
back to his bed.
As he pulled back the covers, she set the
chair beside the bed, and tucked the covers around him well,
smoothing them to make a cozy sleep nest. Her hand on his brow
made him long to hold her fingers against his cheek as she bent
and kissed him.
But before she turned off his lamp, she went
to his wardrobe and took out a pair of very short grey
pants, clean underpants, grey knee socks, and sturdy black shoes,
setting them on the chair beside his bed. Last of all, she laid
out a long-sleeved grey school shirt. He knew, even in the dim
light, that it crackled with starch. A butterfly fluttered up
from his stomach and into his throat.
"We'll talk more tomorrow, young master
Bailey. . . ."
The light clicked off and she was gone in
a rustle of dressing gown and slipper taps. He reached back
and rubbed his bottom, watching the uniform through his closed
stories about us
Back to the treehouse