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[Image of Little Miss Sunshine]Take Good Care of Yourself
by MollyB

Jamie lay tummyside down on the bed - she always slept that way. But even if it were not her long-established habit, she had a reason to sleep on her tummy tonight. With the elastic waistband of her sky-blue flannel pajamas stretched back a little, her right hand rested on her rather pink bottom as she continued to sniffle and whimper a little. Her head was on the pillow on the right side of the double bed. Alan was almost asleep on his back, right up against her left side. She moved her head from the pillow to his chest, and Alan inched his larger hand over her small one; as he held her hand still, his thumb ever so gently rubbed an arc on her smooth warm skin, as children's arms do in the snow when they are making "snow angels."

"Sweetheart, you know how much I love you," he said quietly. A sniffled "ye-ees." She did. His other hand found her back and patted it tenderly.

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Not so long ago, she had been over his lap, getting a sound hand-spanking on her bare bottom, those blue pajamas bunched on her thighs and knees.

SLAP -- owww!! -- SMACK --ouch --ow--SMACK, SMACK -- cut-it-owwt! -- SMACK --oh, shit!-- SMACK, SMACK -- Al-aaan stop it -- oww-- SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK -- SMACK -- until the individual cries of shock and protest turned to undifferentiated sobbing. The sounds echoed in the living room, breaking the stillness of the evening. He spanked her until he could tell that she had reached that point of feeling better, not worse, over his lap, when she had had a good cry. When it was all over, Alan had rested his hand on Jamie's hot bottom for a moment, massaging gently, and then he had pulled the pajama pants up over the redness. As he stood her up, he hugged her and sent her upstairs to bed. He had joined her there shortly afterwards.

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"Feeling better now?"

"Uh huh."

"Are you ready to talk about it?"

Jamie was silent.

Alan pulled the bedclothes up over them both. The sheets, comforter, and quilt reached her chin, his chest.

She slid her hand out from under his as he continued tracing a gentle arc along the undercurve of her bottomcheek. Jamie always found security in the way the same strong hands that spanked her bottom were also capable of such soft caresses. She hugged Alan's chest the way she usually hugged her pillow. Through his white cotton T-shirt she could feel the reassuring warmth of his body and she snuggled cozily. She thought back to her recent spanking and the evening's events leading up to it.

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It was early evening, winter. Outside, a light snow dusted the pine trees. The blanket of snow from earlier in the week muffled the night noises. Friday. It was a perfect night for hibernating, and Jamie and Alan had both gotten undressed and into night-clothes as soon as they came home from work. Jamie gladly traded her black corduroy and grey-blue wool for the flannel of her favorite pajamas--looking something like what Lucy Ricardo might have worn, they were a soft blue printed with white and grey clouds. Jamie had been sick the previous week and had spent too much time at home in pajamas. But now that she was back at work and desperately trying to catch up, coming home and shedding the day's clothes once again felt like relief. Alan's sartorial statement was made this evening, as it was most evenings, by his choice of plaids, miraculously garish and tasteful both at once.

Thinking about Jamie's latest bout with a nasty sinus infection, Alan was again frustrated by her continued seeming inability to take care of herself, even though she was in almost every other way the most responsible person he had ever known. Alan decided that now that she was feeling a lot better, it might be the time to express his concern about the ways she neglected herself. He told himself that he wouldn't even point out that when she was home sick in bed, she wasn't really much use to anyone--the missed meetings, classes, professional and social engagements--because he wanted to get Jamie to see that she should take care of herself for herself and not just because of how her illnesses affected other people. He wanted her to start taking care of herself because she valued herself and because he loved her, but not because of guilt. This seemed an never-ending struggle.

"But people don't get sinus infections from not wearing coats," Jamie said earlier that evening when Alan broached the subject of her self-neglect, citing her habit of forgetting to wear a coat.

"In fact, Dr. Science," Jamie said, "studies have proven that people don't even get colds from being cold; there was that study in England where they made all those volunteers sick by squirting cold germs up their noses, remember? and they made half of them stand in puddles or something. I mean, who would volunteer for that? But the study showed that getting sick had nothing to do with wet feet or no coat or losing your mittens or whatever else you are accusing me of. . . ."

But Alan had ceased to pay any real attention to this babbling, knowing from past experience that it was designed with the obvious intention of proving her questionable innocence or at the very least, of distracting him. He knew too that while her real research was impeccable, she frequently made up the studies she cited in discussions with him, particularly in discussions about her behavior. The English cold study did sound vaguely familiar, though.

"Sweetheart, you are an intelligent and reasonable person. Do you honestly think that it's a good idea to forget to wear a coat in the winter? It's February. We live in New England--how hard is it to remember that you need a coat? And why, when you manage to wear a coat, can't you figure out that it needs to be buttoned? And do you really expect me to believe that you think leaving the locker room after your swim with wet hair and letting your hair freeze outside is good for you? Doesn't frozen hair sort of tip you off that it's winter and . . ."

"I just have a lot to keep track of . . . " she offered lamely, knowing he wasn't listening.

And then he moved on to the topic of her eating habits. She knew she was in for a long lecture.

"I don't understand how a grown woman who is so responsible otherwise can take such bad care of herself. . . . Your eating habits are terrible. How can someone who buys whole wheat noodles and organic produce and who runs from the room at the mere mention of hydrogenated oils be the same person who is capable of eating ice cream for breakfast, rice pudding for lunch, and cookies and popcorn for dinner?"

"Um, needless consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds?" she offered, under her breath.

Alan continued. "You must realize that all this stresses the body and makes you more susceptible . . . ." He talked on and on. Whether he had intended her to or not, Jamie felt more and more guilty for not taking care of herself. She knew he was right about a lot of it, but. . .

"And how much sleep have you had lately?" he persisted.

By the time frozen hair, bad diets, and lack of sleep were being discussed, Jamie and Alan had already finished their dinner: fresh bread he had bought on the way home; a good collection of leftovers, including a broccoli-mushroom-noodle-cheese casserole and curried rice with raisins and peas - not bad for leftovers, and even a green salad with unseasonably good tomatoes. Milano cookies for dessert. Jamie got up from the table to put away the remaining food while Alan busied himself at the sink with the dishes. It seemed to her that the critique of her ability to take care of herself had mercifully ended in an uneasy truce, and she thought that a fire in the fireplace would be cozy.

In fact, after Alan's post-dinner lecture and her not very successful defense, Jamie might have gotten away with just her promise to try to take better care of herself if she hadn't then gone outside for firewood in only her pajamas and fleece slippersocks. But the back door was right there, and her coat was flung over a chair, all the way near the front door, and she knew it would only take a minute to step outside and under the deck and grab a couple of logs.

One look at Alan's face when she returned with the wood was enough to convince her she had made a very big mistake. With an exchange of glances that was almost telepathic, somewhat clairvoyant, and no real surprise to either one, both know what would inevitably happen next.

Alan took the logs from Jamie and placed them on the slate alongside the fireplace. Holding her hands and putting an arm around her shoulders, Alan led her over to the couch. Mismatched plaids of his loose robe and pajama pants and off-white cotton sofa fabric seemed to fly past her as she was quickly draped across his knees.

"Do you remember what your sinus infection felt like last week?" Alan had asked as he held her over his lap and pulled down her blue pajama bottoms. Silence except for the sound of breathing.

"Oh," it finally occurred to Jamie, "he wants an answer."

Cool air on bare skin.

"Yes," she said miserably, "it felt like a truck was sitting on my head. And I couldn't breathe. And I had a fever. And I thought my head would explode. There, are you happy with my list of symptoms? It was awful. I never felt sicker in my life, ok? And it had nothing to do with not wearing a coat."

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As Jamie nestled there under the blankets, she remembered the sting as Alan had started to smack her bottom and then the burn as he had continued landing more and more spanks on her reddening cheeks. Stinging blush turning to burning redness. Her one attempt to wriggle free only gained her several harder spanks. "Ok, ok, enough, oww, I get the point," as the rapid hard spanks landed. Alan's left arm drew her more tightly to him. SMACK --oww-- and then sobs.

Now, awhile later, her bottom was just warm.

"Are you ready to talk about it?" Alan asked again, looking at the woman who continued to sniffle sporadically with her head on his chest. He brushed a strand of coppery brown hair from her moist face.

Jamie lifted her head and looked at him in surprise and even annoyance, knowing that once she had been spanked for something, the topic was no longer supposed to be up for discussion. Surely he was not forgetting this? Alan moved his hand from inside her pajamas to the outside of the flannel pants, and Jamie felt reassured by the weight of his hand resting on her bottom, by his simple touch.

"Are you ready to talk about why you're sulking?"

"Oh," she thought, "that's what he means. He noticed."

She wasn't going to say anything, but then suddenly, "Ok, yes, yes, I'll tell you why. Because it's just not fair to spank someone for getting sick and to blame them for getting sick. I mean, I didn't go let someone squirt a sinus infection up my nose. Do you think I enjoyed being sick? It was awful, and, and it's a week later and I'm fine now." They both knew that she was still finishing up her course of antibiotic medication --- that was why they didn't have wine with dinner.

"Sweetie, you know very well I would never spank you for getting sick. That's not why you got a spanking tonight, and I think you know that."

And she did know it, but it was so hard for her to admit to herself that he was right and she really was terrible at taking care of herself.

"If you can't remember to take care of yourself, then I'm just going to have to help you remember. I love you. I can't stand guard at the door each time you go out to see if you are wearing a coat. And I don't want to be the food police or to tell you when to go to bed. But maybe I can convince you that I love you very much and that you deserve to be well-taken care of - by both of us. And maybe that will be enough for you to remember to try to take as good care of yourself as you do of other people."

Jamie sighed a few times, and Alan felt her take a slow, deep breath and then relax her whole body. Soon Alan felt regular puffs of warm breath on his chest as Jamie fell into a much-needed and very comfortable sleep. He leaned his head down and kissed her softly on the forehead. As always, Alan was touched by the way sleep revealed the girlish vulnerability of the strong, stubborn woman beside him. He turned off the light, and listening to Jamie's breathing in the quiet winter night, Alan closed his eyes.

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