Exactly What You Need
The scream was music to our ears. Well, almost.
We looked at each other with the glee of a job well done and clinked our early afternoon glasses of sparkling wine together before choosing a freshly baked cupcake apiece from the tiered stand. We are incredibly civilised.
At first, the expletives and general crashing around that could be heard through the open window of the bedroom I shared with my beloved husband was hilarious. In my head, I saw table lamps knocked over, pillows hurled every which way, furniture splintered and scattered about the floor and a three-mile cordon around the danger zone. Oh, and the man of my dreams screaming pitifully and dancing around the room like Michael Flatley. Probably not a true to life interpretation of the scene, I acknowledged, but I definitely amused myself for several minutes with the fantasy.
Shona and I creased up with incontrollable giggles, delighting in our impish devilry and the success thereof. We congratulated each other on our brattish mastery and cunning with imitations of my poor man leaping around our bedroom, and another sip from our glasses.
But, of course, our delight was short lived. Isn’t it always?
“Isabel!” That tone set my heart racing.
It really wasn’t my fault, either, which makes it ridiculously unfair that he jumped right on that conclusion bandwagon. It wasn’t even my idea.
Okay, maybe I was the first to notice the frog at the side of Shona’s pond, and maybe it was me who found the jam jar to catch it in and bring it home. But really, if he hadn’t insisted on being asleep in the middle of the afternoon, which is ridiculous anyway, and if he hadn’t made such a fuss at the zoo when I tried to take him to see the cute amphibians in their little rock pool, this would never have happened.
Plus, Shona was with me the whole time. So could anyone really argue that this was my fault?
Um, apparently, yes.
“Isabel, you have precisely twenty seconds to get that apparently all too pale little bottom up here.”
My mouth hung open as I felt my face flush. Alex and I had happily confided our domestic persuasions to Shona and her husband, Bill, ever since the first time I sat gingerly on my chair at a dinner party. However, our openness most certainly did not extend to having the whole blessed neighbourhood hearing my predicament shouted across the road from a first storey window. I scowled up at the disembodied voice, then relaxed my features. I knew I had to either recover quickly, or lose face in front of my partner in crime. I gave Shona a withering look as I went where I was summoned, promising her with a silent but ferocious glare that, if I went down, she would go down with me, no matter what happened.
She understood and returned the obligatory gesture of fast-fading sisterhood: the out-thrust tongue.
I stood at the bottom of the stairs for a minute, giving myself time to compose my face into a picture of innocent concern, then ascended calmly to face the woken beast.
“Get. It. Out.”
Alex was sitting up squarely in the middle of the bed, his arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times, and his eyes fixed on the little frog under my vanity table.
The innocence ploy still seemed like my best option, so I walked across the room and opened the window.
“Was it a fly, honey? Want me to fetch the swatter?” I drew on all of my Year Eight drama club sessions to act my part, and even did a cursory sweep of the ceiling with my eyes, looking for fictional nuisances.
Alex did not seem impressed or convinced by my acting, however.
“Oh, that, my dear, is the least of your worries,” he said darkly, fixing me with a glare I knew all too well. Eyes still ablaze and locked with mine, he softened his tone. “Isabel, darling, I am trying very hard to be reasonable and calm and understanding.” He barely even blinked; his eyes were trained on the frog. “But if that reptile isn’t out of my sight in the next thirteen seconds, there will be no pillow soft enough, no ice pack cold enough, and no corner unfrequented by your sweet little self from now until next Christmas. Do I make myself clear?” His voice wavered as he spoke.
I scrunched my mouth up tight so that he wouldn’t see me smiling, desperately fighting my natural instinct to crease up laughing at the downfall of the hulking great man.
“It’s an amphibian, actually, dear, not a reptile.”
What I had considered a helpful biology lesson was, for my beloved, like a red flag in front of a bull.
“Okay, sweetheart. You have three seconds.”
He slowed his words right down, mastering his fear much faster than I had anticipated.
I produced the jam jar from my handbag, which, I realised too late, immediately confirmed Alex’s already pretty accurate suspicions, and moved slowly towards the frog.
Now, I don’t claim to be an amphibian whisperer of any kind, but in that moment, the frog and I had a connection of some sort, I’m quite sure of it. I looked at it, and it looked at me, and we definitely understood each other on some deep telepathic level. I’m even more certain that this was, in fact, a little she frog, who had her own domestic problems to deal with, and who consequently sympathised fully with my unfortunate plight. I glanced at her, then suggestively at the jam jar. She looked up at me and puffed out her chest as I held it out to her. Then, with very little pomp and circumstance, she hopped in quite contentedly. I sighed with relief and smiled down at her.
I looked around at the love of my life, incredulous at his impatience. But, on reflection, I did decide that it was probably most sensible to do as the rumbling from the bed had commanded, and with minimal eye rolling. I had popped out some holes in the lid, so that the dear little thing could still breathe. I’m extremely considerate that way.
“I’ll, erm, just take her back to her pond, okay? I wonder how she got all the way up here.” I smiled my most innocent-of-all-charges smile, gave a little shrug, and turned to go. “You just finish your nap, and we’ll talk later.”
“No, darling, you will go downstairs and give the frog to Shona. Tell her, please, that she can return it to its little house and then stand in her bedroom corner with her knickers down to wait for Bill to get home.”
My mouth hung open, and I breathed in to help me ride the waves that were rolling in my tummy. I tried to hide my satisfied smirk as I nodded my perfect acquiescence to his edict.
“I’ll certainly tell her, sir,” I said in my milk and honey, sweeter than sweet voice, certain that I had got away with everything, evaded detection, and got my accomplice in big trouble, into the bargain, just as I had planned.
Sometimes couples just need a little extra help connecting, you see. Shona told me just the other day that she and Bill have been very distant with each other since her surgery. He is a sweet, kind, generous, and a frankly terrifying man when he catches you trying to skim the radishes off of the top of the salad. But above all, his love for Shona is so deep that it makes me catch my breath when I see them together. But Shona’s accident scared him so much that he barely touched her for weeks, and then only to plump a pillow, or offer a cooling drink, rather than to toss her over his lap and wale the tar out of her, which is really all that she wants.
Well, enter the Love Doctor, playing my man like a marionette on a string to bring domestic harmony to an unsuspecting neighbour. My care of the community really is second to none…
“Thank you, dear. Off you go, and hurry. You have two minutes to get right back here. I know exactly what you need.”
The Love Doctor seemed to be losing her touch. Either that, or the puppet’s strings had broken. My head snapped back around to look at him, cool as a cucumber, his bravado returned now that the terrible threat of a frog-inflicted death had been quashed.
“B-but, I thought you told me to tell Shona to go to the corner.”
“I did, darling. And once you have told Shona, you will march yourself right back here.”
“But that’s not fair! She’s the guilty one!”
“Off you go.” His tone turned deadly at having to repeat the order, obviously not believing a single word I said.
“I didn’t do anything!”
“Oh, for goodness’ sake, Alex, it was just a frog, and nobody died or anything.”
“Three.” He didn’t even have to move.
“All right, all right, I’m going, I’m going. Jeez!”
I took the stairs two at a time and just about caught my breath at the bottom before plastering a victorious smile across my face and opening the front door. No need for Shona to know that I was frazzled. There is no honour among sisters of choice, you know. It’s all about preserving that shred of your own dignity, and remaining the home and dry one of the group, no matter the cost.
I sauntered over to where she was waiting for me on her front porch. I plopped down into the swing seat next to her and handed over the frog.
“Well?” she said, shifting a bit uncomfortably on her bottom.
“You’re for it.” I said simply. “He guessed the frog was from your pond.”
Shona stammered. “What do you mean ‘for it’? Somehow, I can’t see Alex flinging me over his knee.”
I curled up the corners of my mouth. “Bill knows what you did, too. Alex is calling him now. You have to go to your corner and wait for him.”
Shona laughed sadly. “Oh, no, I’m terrified,” she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “Bill hasn’t touched me that way since before the crash, you know that. He is terrified to even play pat-a-cake down there anymore. You expect me to believe that he has actually sent me to the corner?”
“Well, actually, Alex sent you, and I very much doubt that Bill is gonna wanna lose face, sweetie. That’s very important to the menfolk.” I folded my arms across my chest and gave her a sage smile that took the edge off her bravado.
Shona furrowed her brow. I could see that, despite her doubt and anxiety at her husband’s loss of confidence, I was slowly convincing her that such a thing might be possible. Her whole demeanour changed in that moment, and although she was obviously nervous, I could see that she was trying to contain a smile. I decided to lay it on thick, just like old times, as happy for my friend that I could finally give her what she needed, or at least coerce, corral, and drag kicking and screaming the man she most needed to be stern and immovable to her side.
“I reckon you’re really going to get it this time. I wonder what that will feel like on your little porcelain bottom. It hasn’t been warmed up for a while, has it? Oh, it’s really gonna sting!”
Shona glared at me, as though she would like nothing better than to tip a whole bag of frogs all over my head.
“Well, what about you, hmm? What are you looking so calm about?”
“Like I said—” I shrugged again. “Your frogs must be super obviously yours. He just told me to come out and give you the thing back. I don’t think I am in trouble at all, actually.” My story was starting to sound hollow, and I could see she was thinking it all through, so I waved my arms at her and shooed her off the swing. “Off you go, now. I wouldn’t court extras, if I were you.”
She stuck out her tongue at me, and I dutifully returned my most practiced devil-may-care smile, watching her as she retreated.
My thoughts turned immediately from the perfect lie I had concocted for Shona to the less than perfect scene that was being set back at my house. I opened and shut our front door with as little noise as I could manage, taking a moment as I pushed to draw in a deep, steadying breath. As I began the slow climb of the stairs, I truly believed I was performing the march of the condemned French aristocrats heading towards the guillotine.
Now, my astute readers might question my sudden trepidation. After all, I think it’s safe to assume that I wanted, at least in some way, a bottom warming when I caught the frog in the first place. But while that may be the fact of the matter, it still doesn’t feel so great to be walking towards it of my own free will. When Alex grabs me and bends me over the bedrail, it’s not my fault, I have no say, and I have nothing to do with it. When he yanks my knickers down and grabs for the wooden spoon, again, it’s not my fault. I have no say, and I have nothing to do with it. But when I climb the stairs all by myself, put myself in the corner, and pull my knickers down, that’s all me. I kind of have to wonder why the guy is even bothering to show up.
The door opened before I reached the top of the stairs, and I jumped.
“Look at my little rabbit, all caught in the headlights.”
I really was.
“You rather took your time,” he said. “I suppose two minutes must mean something different to you than it does to me.”
This didn’t really seem to prompt a response, and really, I didn’t have one, so I just stood on the penultimate step, looking a little bit lost.
Alex smiled, “It’s time, sweetheart.” He held out his hand to me. “I know exactly what you need.”
To ignore or refuse it seemed utterly unthinkable, but taking it would mean giving in. I didn’t have to decide.
Alex reached out and took hold of my elbow, since my hand had sneaked around behind my back during the panic and was refusing to come out, and helped me up the final stair and into our bedroom. He closed the door.
My legs took me to the corner of the room, and my hands reached under my dress to tuck it up and wiggle my knickers down to my knees. I could hear laughing from over my shoulder, and jerked my head around, eyes narrowed.
“Face to the wall, young lady,” Alex snapped.
“But why are you—ouch!” I jumped as two unexpected smacks landed on either side of my self-exposed bottom.
“Face. To. The. Wall.” That time, four smacks landed.
“Okay, okay,” I said, kicking my leg up as far as possible, bridled as it was by my knickers. “But you were laughing at me.”
Alex ran a hand over my bottom, then tapped it lightly. “I’m just very interested in how long my little girl is planning on keeping herself in the corner before I smack her bottom very hard, indeed.”
I turned my head to look at him. “You mean that I don’t have to stand in the corner?”
Alex smirked. “I wasn’t planning on it, darling, but you obviously think you need it to really learn your lesson. How long do you think a very disrespectful girl deserves to wait for her punishment, Isabel?”
“I wanna come out,” I whined, stomping my foot to complete the effect. “It’s not fair. You didn’t even want to put me here!”
“I am asking how long you think disrespectful girls deserve to stand in the corner. You obviously think that this is where you need to be at the moment.”
“Minus three minutes,” I said pettishly, crossing my arms across my chest.
“Hands on your head, young lady. You know that.”
“But you didn’t even want me to stand here anyway, Alex. Can’t you just sp— Well, get it over with?”
Eight smacks hit my bottom before I was quite ready for them, each one making me dance around.
“Okay, okay, stop. Erm, I think maybe five minutes?” I tried.
“Five minutes? Are you sure?”
“I’m concerned, sweetie. Five minutes is not a very long time for you to really contemplate your wrongdoing, now is it? I would have to make your bottom very, very, very red and sore to be sure that you really remember in future.”
“No, Alex, that isn’t fair! I, ow! I just, erm— How about twenty minutes?”
“Twenty? You don’t sound too sure.” Swats began to pepper my thighs.
“Ow, ow, yes, twenty. Twenty is good.”
“Oh, poor baby. That sounds ever so harsh.” He moved back to sit on our bed.
I knew better than to move my hands, or move at all, come to that. The problem with having a husband like Alex, who knows exactly what I need, is that he knows exactly what I need. As horrid and icky and tummy butterfly-inducing as it was, I needed this anxious wait and his unpredictability.
He let me stand silently for a minute or perhaps a little longer, then cleared his throat. “No, it’s no good. I am far too kind-hearted to leave you there any longer. Come here, and bring your hairbrush from the dressing table, please. I know exactly what you need.”
I felt my stomach flip over, and leant into the wall to help me breathe through it. “Not the hairbrush.” My voice was a squeak.
“Would you prefer my belt, or the bath brush?”
The squeak was back; I couldn’t control it. I hopped a little as I turned from the corner, shaking my leg to free it from the shackles of my knickers. I walked towards the bed, casting one final imploring look over at Alex, my eyes flicking to the dressing table – and the horrible hairbrush – first.
“Come on, little one. Daddy doesn’t have all day.”
I groaned, but picked the brush up, holding it out in both hands, like someone crazy might hold a rattlesnake.
He held out his hand for it, and had the brush before I even knew what was happening.
Muscle memory took over as he settled himself on the side of the bed and helped me down over his thighs. I reached out as the eiderdown came towards me, and nestled my head on my arms, dragging the stuffed bunny from the end of the bed towards me, to bury my face in when things got ouchy. I tried hard to keep my legs out flat, but they gained a sense of self-preservation that was all their own, and bent at the knee just enough to protect my bottom with toes.
“Young lady, you know that is not the way to take your spanking. Now, legs down and bottom up.”
“You will use your hand first, won’t you, sir?” I said with a whine, creeping my fingers into the hand that was holding me tightly round the waist.
He leant forward and kissed my neck – little feathery kisses that stole my breath. “I know exactly what you need, little girl. You just let go, now, and leave it all to me.”
I did let go. I lay still and blithely accepted as he started rubbing my bottom, heating it slowly with one hand. Before long, the rubs were interspersed with swats that felt almost like fiery little pinches dancing across my naked cheeks and mockingly flitting just above and just below my pain threshold. I shut my eyes and focused on breathing.
“You did a lot of teasing today, didn’t you, missy?”
The rubs and swats kicked up a gear, and I had to fight my natural impulse to roll right off Alex’s lap.
“Yes, sir. I did, but I’m really sorry now, and I won’t ever bring frogs into the house ever again, I won’t, I promise.”
The rubs stopped altogether, but the crisp, cup-handed smacks continued to offer bass accompaniment to Alex’s scolding.
“Very convincing, Izzy Whizzy,” he said, smacking a particularly hard four down all in the same place: left lower cheek. “Very convincing, indeed. Perhaps you should have thought of that before you brought that slimy, dirty little beast into our bedroom.”
The hand was dropped in favour of a more heavy-duty instrument, and I held on to my bunny for dear life, praising any heaven that would listen for my good fortune in remembering to grab him at the start.
“Well, that’s no way to talk about Shona,” I said with mock indignation, wondering as soon as I opened my mouth what on earth I was trying to do.
“You know perfectly well what I am talking about, young lady, and I am going to teach you here and now to be much more sensitive towards the needs and preferences of others. It is neither funny, nor clever,” he said, punctuating his adjectives with particularly flat, stingy claps, “to force a man to confront a fear while he is wearing his pyjamas.”
I had to work hard to stifle my hysteria at this, and was rewarded for my less than satisfactory efforts with a barrage of swats that had me clawing at the comforter and sliding my legs this way and that in lieu of actual freedom.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Truly, really, honestly, absolutely, I am.” I wailed, squeezing tightly to Alex’s hand that still held me around the waist.
“I should think so, too,” he said, finishing off the too with a final clap that jiggled my bottom cheeks particularly rudely. “I shall have to think about how I can punish you properly.”
I shot my head around, jaw dropped in horror. “P-p-properly?”
“Yes, of course,” he said evilly, and sat me up on his lap, rubbing the heat into and around my bottom. “Off you go to your corner for now, little girl. I think it is time for the twenty minutes of reflection time you suggested. Then I know just what to do to turn my little frog princess into a very good little girl.”
His fingertips lingered for slightly more than a suggestive moment a little underneath the two blazing orbs that had been so assaulted. I moaned, eyes closed in a moment of relief.
“Go,” he commanded, smacking my bottom hard and forcing my shaky legs into action.
I stumbled towards the corner, with Alex in hot pursuit.
He guided my hands to my head, then reached around me, under my breasts and up, to unbutton my dress, taking his time to work each one through its little loop and drawing feathery fingers along my throat at every opportunity. I barely breathed, and stayed as still as possible as he worked lower and lower, teasing every nerve and heightening every tension in my body until the last button, just below my navel, was open. He drew his index finger back upwards, which made me shiver involuntarily and gasp at the movement. He swept my hair over to one side. The curls tickled the nape of my neck as he tucked a loose strand behind my ear and pressed gentle kisses to my bare skin from my jaw to my necklace, drawing the material of my dress down my shoulders and off altogether, working it over my hips, down my legs, and taking my arm to help me step out of it completely.
There was no chill in the air, but I felt the goose bumps rise across my arms and legs as I stood, wearing only my bra.
Alex left my side for a moment to hang my dress up like a dutiful husband, rather than the terribly indecent, mean man who was slowly breaking down every shred of modesty I had. I hunched my shoulders and stood awkwardly, all the strength and sensuality I had felt when he was beside me pulled away with my dress.
But he returned after a few moments of deafening silence and nestled his chin into the space between my shoulder and my neck, his arms encircling me and somehow finding their way home.
“Relax, darling,” he whispered. “You are beautiful. And I know exactly what you need.”