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[Image of Little Miss Naughty] The Dark Side
by Mija

The summer I turned sixteen, I wanted a two-piece bathing suit. I lived in Southern California less then five miles from the Santa Monica sand. No problem, right? Wrong. Huge problem. My mother and father both explicitly forbade me to buy one - even with my own money. So I didn't - my best friend Cyn did. It was the kind that were popular in the mid-1980s, sort of a crochet string deal, with no elastic, but two sets of ties at the waist and two for the top. Much less modest than what I would have chosen for myself, but that was part of the joke.

Cyndi (my highschool friend) lived about five miles away from my parents. No-one walks in LA and I didn't have a license or car yet, so my father dropped me off at her house three or four days a week on his way to work. Her family had a pool and both of her parents worked so we had the yard to ourselves. I would change into my forbidden suit and we would spend the day seeing who could get darker (Cyn's a blond - the advantage was clearly mine). Around 4:00 p.m. I would shower and change back into a sun-dress and be ready for my father.

This had been going on for about a month when my dad had a really bad day. First, one of his assistants did such a poor job putting together a totally standard information pack that the office lost a major client.

Anyway, my father was already furious when he walked into that yard at Cyn's - and saw me.

The radio was on very loud (I even remember the song: 'Born a Rebel' by Tom Petty) and the two of us were wearing sunglasses, lying on our backs. I heard him say my name, opened my eyes and looked up. There he was standing over me.

As I said my goodbyes to Cyndi, I know I was in trouble, knew that he would yell at me. I had obviously disobeyed both him and my mother. And yet, it didn't really yet seem like a big deal. I have a tendency to try to talk my way out of trouble, and at this point my father hadn't spanked me for a while, so it was easy to be brave.

You've probably guessed from my stories that I can make an argument out of what is rather poor ground - actually, I enjoy arguing with someone in the right circumstances. My father had trained some in law and often is amused, to a degree, by my attempts at defending myself. This was not one of those times. Had he not been wearing sunglasses himself, I fully believe I would have seen in his eyes that there was more going on.

But maybe the following events were inevitable by this point. Maybe they were always beyond my control. I don't know. What I know is that I kept up a steady stream of talk and excuses (met by silence) all the way out to the car. I can't remember all I said, but I know (because it came back to haunt me) that I told him this was the 'only time' I had worn the suit. I also remember the last thing I said:

"Besides, you only said not to BUY one. Well I didn't even PAY for this."

That got a response. Knowing what I know now I think it's safe to assume that he put a different spin on my comment. He opened the door to the back seat of the car and 'backhanded' me in - quite literally - I ended up sitting on the other side of the car.

My father then started yelling at me in English and Spanish. He called me 'Puta', 'Malenche' and 'Chinga' (I'm not sure on spelling - this was not the Spanish taught at my Catholic highschool). Me!! His daughter!! (I can't believe I still feel hurt ten years later).

He had never ever struck me in the face before (though my mother had). This was the first indication I had that something was terribly wrong. He should want to punish me - severely even - but I can't explain how this was not just retribution but violence, and frightening beyond expression. I knew even at that point though that I couldn't utter another word. I had to wait for the storm to calm.

When we got home, he waited until the garage door was closed to let me out (the stupid 'child-safety' locks on the doors trapped the 'child' inside - a 'safety' feature inspired no doubt by police cars) and pulled me out by grabbing a handful of my hair (this was also a totally new, unheard-of violence).

Instead of taking me up to my bedroom or my parents' room (these were the places I was always sent when I was going to be punished) he yanked me into his study, closed and locked (why, I have no idea as we were the only ones home) the door. Still holding a handful of my hair with his left hand, he used his right arm to clear his desk (he's neat, so there wasn't much on it). Everything went onto the floor next to and behind his desk.

"Take that dress off and lean over."

I lifted the skirt to my waist and bent over his desk. I wasn't trying to disobey. But he'd never had me disrobe before. I simply misunderstood. He grabbed me by my hair again, turned me back toward him and shook me. I remember hoping my hair in its pony tail would magically come off in his hand. He yelled in my face:


I stammered, "I thought you . . . I mean . . ."

"DON'T THINK AT ALL. DO WHAT I TELL YOU. Your problem is you DON'T LISTEN [blow across my face] and YOU DON'T THINK [another blow]!"

(In case you're wondering, I did see the inconsistency of my father's two statements even then. But even I am not that fond of arguing; this hardly seemed the time to point it out. I know this isn't really funny but humor is far more appealing than self-pity.)

I didn't say anything and pulled the dress over my head. I now had only that stupid little swimsuit on. It felt skimpier than ever. I felt small, insignificant and ashamed. The man staring so coldly and with such distaste could not really be my daddy.

My father looked at me, letting his eyes linger on the suit, then glared back at my face, and said, "So this is the 'first and only time' you've worn this? That is what you said, right?"

I nodded through my tears, which had been streaming down my cheeks since he slapped me outside the car, which welled up now and spilled over into sobs of fear and shame. I saw the trap. He spun me around so I was facing the desk with my back to him. Then untied the bottoms of the suit, revealing the much whiter skin that lay beneath.

"Was that the truth?"

"No." I mouthed the word (he didn't see that) and shook my head (he did see that).

I felt his hands shove me so far over the desk that my toes left the rug.

"Don't you dare move."

I folded my arms under my face so my palms were on top of each other, face down with my forehead resting on them. The desk itself was wood covered by glass - cold. As my hand brushed the side of my mouth I could see my blood mixed into the other moisture. It left a streak on my tanned skin. My skin was cold from fear.

I could hear the metallic click of my father undoing his belt and pulling it off. Strangely, I suddenly felt less anxiety, almost a peace. I knew (or thought I did) what would happen now. I would be strapped with his belt. It would hurt. I would apologize. He would forgive me and this would be over. The stranger who called me worse than a whore, the worst names any girl or woman could be called, would go away and my 'Daddy' or 'Papi' would be back. Or so I thought.

Over the edge of the desk I could see that a favorite picture of the two of us (me four - him helping me fly a kite - all dark shadow - no faces) had fallen with everything else from the desk top. The frame I'd made for it sand casting with the girl scouts at nine was broken, the sand was crumbling and the glass was cracked. My last thought, as the sear of the first blow from his folded belt struck across my bottom, was of fixing it as my apology. My disobedience now seemed so disrespectful. I stared at the frame and wondered, "Do I even remember how I made that?"

As the shock of pain reached from my nerves to my brain, the hurt was much greater than I ever remembered feeling until then. Before this, I doubt seriously whether he had ever used his full strength when punishing me. Certainly, before this, my father had never punished me when he was truly angry. I didn't resist at all, but my sobs and cries kept time with his strokes, gradually growing louder. This first blow was followed by twenty-four more. At the twenty-fifth I pushed up off the desk - lying was always twenty-five with his belt. (I tend toward dishonesty when cornered so I knew that penalty too well already.)

My father laughed (well, sort of):

"Do you really think you'll get off so easy?"

He pushed the middle of my shoulders down again.

Twenty-five more, much harder. My skin already felt very sore. The strap came down higher on my back and lower on my bottom, striking the tops of my legs. My sobs were choking me. I pushed up again. He shoved me back down. The belt unfolded and he stepped back a bit and whipped me with it. There was some sort of stitching at the tip that stung like bees with each stroke. Later I'd know it left blood-filled, blister-like welts, small, red and hard. This whipping was not confined to my bottom; blows landed as far down as the backs of my knees and on my back, up above my waist.

Unconsciously my hands moved down to protect myself.

It is really a good indication of how frightened I was that it took so long for me to move my hands. Usually he had to hold them at the small of my back from the very beginning of any punishment. But because he had to step closer to hold my hands he couldn't use the unfolded belt any more (why didn't he refold it? You tell me - I was hardly about to offer advice).

I don't remember speaking to him at this point. My pain and fear had created a sort of prison. I didn't feel it possible to make contact outside myself. I think I also was afraid of somehow making him still angrier. I do think he could have killed me; he was that angry and that far from being my father.

Still holding my hands, he grabbed a planting stake (about two-and-a-half feet long, green fiberglass, simulated bamboo, with plastic tipped ends) out of the orchid pot beside his desk (I think he killed his own plant). The stake was flexible, and as thick as . . . a Pilot roller-ball pen. I didn't or couldn't count the blows from it. More than thirty certainly. Probably more than fifty, but time had become elastic and I really can't say. I stopped counting at thirty. The beating went on and on. The strokes landed everywhere, from my knees to the middle of my back (below his own hand of course), delivered hard and quickly.

I was already hysterically sobbing when he started beating me with the stake, but when I cry (or laugh) hysterically it's almost silent, so I don't know what he thought or heard. Looking back I'd like to think he wasn't thinking at all and that's how this happened. Whatever else, I know this wasn't planned. Thinking that makes my current relationship with him bearable. How else could I justify still loving him? Rationalize still craving his approval?

I really couldn't feel pain between the blows. I kept thinking maybe I was numb, or hoping I might pass out (one never seems to, from pain at any rate). But my skin was so sore on my bottom and legs that each stinging blow hurt absolutely and exponentially more that the one before it. The pain welled up inside and it kept going on and on. If I could have killed myself, I would have. I kept praying, 'Let me pass out or die'.

But I didn't want to die.

Suddenly a voice within me started screaming:

"please please stop stop stop"

I heard the stake fall to the floor. My father suddenly let go of my hands and I felt myself slide off the desk onto the carpet, onto my knees, facing the desk, my hands still clenched behind me. I felt too dizzy to remain upright so I curled up on my side on the floor. The welts that had been raised on my side were scratched by the wool in the rug, but moving hurt more. I wanted to get dressed, but the idea of pulling my dress on seemed as impossible as running a marathon.

please please stop stop stop

Please Please Stop Stop Stop

Please Please Stop Stop Stop


Was running through my head like an incantation. I felt like I was screaming. But I was only crying. I'm not completely sure I did ever scream aloud.

But my father had stopped. So he must have heard something.

My father told me to get up, take my shower and go to bed . . . like everything was normal . . . like he had spanked me over his knee with a paddle. I closed my eyes . . . sleeping. I felt my father's gentle hands lifting me up onto my feet, helping me put my dress back over my head, leading me up the stairs like a child still mostly asleep after a car trip.

When we got within three to four feet of my bathroom I pulled away from him, ran in and locked the door (forbidden always - my mother has always feared one of us falling and striking our head and her not being able to help). Taking my shower, I fell down, jolted from my feet by pain and shock when the hot water first touched my raw skin, but refused to let him in to help me.

When I got out of the shower, I realized I had no night-gown in there. So I wrapped myself as best I could in my towel and robe. I could feel the terry cloth sticking to my thighs and bottom. I knew it would hurt less if I just walked into my room and lay naked on my bed. I could imagine the cool, air-conditioned breeze on the raw welts, soothing. And yet I knew he was out there. I would be modest at all costs. An irrational part of my brain feared another beating were I not.

The steam obscured the mirror so I didn't see what I looked like until the next day. Still, I knew it must be bad. When I stepped out of the bathroom, my father looked at me and gasped, horrified. I would see the following morning that I had two swollen lips, a black eye and a bruise across the side of my cheek. This was trivial when compared to the cuts, welts and bruises across my bottom and down my legs. I didn't leave my room for a week, the house for a month, and in September when I put on my shorts for gym, the teachers exchanged a knowing glance and told me to put my sweats back on and sit out. No-one said or did a thing. Certainly not take me to a doctor.

My father helped me to my room and into bed. When I was lying on my stomach he sat down in a chair next to the bed. I wished he would go away. I wanted to take off the robe, put on something light and smooth, that didn't stick and itch. Maybe lie there with nothing on at all. When he reached out to stroke my cheek I involuntarily flinched away. I had never done that before. He flinched too. The nausea in my throat made me fear I would throw up, yet I couldn't get up to go back to bathroom, didn't want to ask for his help. So I swallowed hard and thought of waves rolling in and out on the white sands of empty Baja beaches.

I never apologized for defying and lying to him, and he never apologized for taking his day's frustrations out on me. Love (or parenting, perhaps) is never having to say you're sorry. Right?

I have no idea what happened to the picture of the two of us, but I never tried to find or repair it or the frame. Sometimes, close to ten years later, all it takes is a change in tone in his voice, even over the phone, and I feel cold all over.

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