“Ripple In Still Water”

ripple

     “They’ll be here real soon to give us our Goodnight, newbie, so brush fast at the basin if you want to, but get into your nightdress first. You need to be bottom up when the warden comes in, or he gets irritated.”

Franny’s jaw dropped. “What?”

“Go on, Gemella. I’ve got this, thanks,” Deena said, and carefully rolled over onto her other side to look at Franny. “Your nightdress is in your pillow case, remember?”

“Yeah, sure. But what was that bottoms up thing?”

“Get changed while I tell you. Go on.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Franny muttered.

She pulled the sleep shirt from the pillowslip and shook it out, then tugged the blouse and the bra over her head.

“We always get a Goodnight from Warden Dent,” Deena continued. “Be sure to say, good evening, Warden Dent as soon as he comes in and says, good evening, girls.”

Unhooking and dropping her skirt to the floor, Franny tugged the sleep shirt over her head and down her arms. It was soft, if not luxurious, and hung just to her knees.

“The warden himself comes in to say goodnight to us?”

She turned down the sheet and blanket, then folded her clothes and laid them on the shelf.

“Every night at nine-thirty, give or take, and it’s nearly that now.”

As she reached for the toothbrush, Franny happened to glance over and see that Deena’s clothes still hung at the end of her bed.

“No time for that lotion rub I promised you, I guess,” she said as she folded Deena’s things.

“Not if you don’t want to,” Deena said, then lowered her voice to a whisper. “But no one will say anything if you do it after lights out.”

“Oh.” Franny shook her head. “Amazing. Less than six hours in the slammer, and already I’m following rules that I’m not even sure exist – like no lotion after your night-night kiss.”

The lights blinked twice in rapid succession, and Deena quickly pushed the covers down to her feet. She lifted up, raised the nightshirt above her waist, and lay down again on her tummy.

“It’s bedtime, Franny. Go on. Bottoms up.”

Mouth agape, Franny glanced across the room. All the other women were situated exactly like Deena – sheet and blanket at the foot of the bed, nightdresses pulled well out of the way, and bare bottoms uppermost as they lay on their tummies.

“Oh, man! He’s not gonna … I mean, the warden, is he going to … Deena?”

The woman frowned. “Lie down, honey, or you’ll get us all in trouble.”

Whimpering, Franny hurried to comply. Feeling more vulnerable than she ever had in her life, she lay down and pouted at Deena.

“So he’s going to come in here and …”

“Good evening, girls,” an avuncular voice called.

Franny muttered a response at the same time the other girls did, although she could not for the life of her remember the name Deena had told her. The man even looked avuncular, thick gray hair, twinkling eyes with laugh lines around them, a bright smile, and an open and honest face.

The only thing spoiling the perfect picture was the wooden paddle in his right hand. It was not overly large or overly heavy looking, the color of weak tea, perhaps as wide as a man’s hand and about as thick, well polished, with no sharp edges, sturdy, dense, like a piece from an antique tabletop, but re-milled for quite a different purpose. Franny shuddered, remembering what Gled had told her about the paddling bench and the bruises.

Wasting no time, though without appearing to hurry, the man went round the first bunk to his right, Glanis’s, and stood at the woman’s left side. Franny carefully raised her head to look. Glanis had a wide, firm behind, the pale tan of a blonde, only slightly mottled with typical Incentive imprints. The warden leant down to speak to her, and she lifted her head to nod at soft words that Franny could not make out. She said a very few unintelligible words in return, then nodded when he spoke again, and dropped her head once more to the pillow, watching as he put a hand on her back and raised the paddle.

The wood glinted like burnished bronze in the overhead light, then flashed down and smacked the upturned bottom. Glanis’s right foot rose an inch and came down quickly, but she made no other sign that she had felt anything. Four more hard licks followed, the final one drawing a faint squeak from Glanis, then he patted her bottom with his non-paddling hand, and pulled the sheet and blanket over her. He spoke once more, and she raised her head again, smiling, and said something. Then he moved across to Linia’s bunk.

Franny sighed with relief. Obviously, the warden was not intent on causing bruises that lasted for weeks, although it appeared that the little wooden board could impart considerable sting.

Neely had followed the warden into the room and stood by on the other side of Glanis’s bed while he paddled the woman. When he finished with her, she followed at a discrete distance while he treated Linia exactly the same way, speaking softly and briefly to her, then paddling her surely and quickly. Relina was next. She squealed a bit through the final two licks to her plump behind, and earned herself a gentle rubbing from the warden’s hand before he tucked her in.

Instead of going to Deena next, he circled around and said goodnight to Gemella. Franny turned her head and found that she could hear that exchange.

“Any problems, Gemella? Feeling all right, are you?”

“Yes, sir, thank you, sir.”

“You know that I don’t dislike seeing you two here, but really, is it absolutely necessary that you also act out every time Relina does, just so she has company during her sentence. We do have visiting hours.”

“Yes, sir, but you know how she is. If I wasn’t here to keep her calm, she’d come out with her butt so toasted from extra Incentives, I’d be weeks putting her right.”

The warden sighed and smiled a very avuncular smile. “Your only option is to keep her on the straight and narrow at all times, then, isn’t it?”

“I do try, sir.”

“As do we all. Well, just a few more days and you can both go home and rest your sore situpons until the next time.”

“Yes, sir.”

Still smiling, he clapped the woman’s small, tight, and not very badly striped cheeks with no more and no less force than he had the other girls’, then patted her bottom.

“Goodnight, Gemella.”

“Goodnight, sir, thank you, sir.”

He covered her, then quickly went round to Deena’s left side.

“Ah, yes, you’ll be leaving us again tomorrow, won’t you, my dear?”

“Yes, sir,” she said, a smile in her voice.

His hand stroked the livid striations so lately imprinted by the strap. “You have been well seen to during your stay, I trust.”

“As well as ever I hope to be, sir.”

The warden sighed and leaned down, the heels of his hands on his knees. “I believe I have said it before, my dear, but however much I love my job, I find no great joy in having friends under my care.”

“I know you don’t. I will try to do better, honestly.”

“I am glad. I will be giving you your Farewell tomorrow, and I would be quite pleased never to see you after that, except at dinner or on the croquet lawn.”

She nodded. “I quite understand, sir, and I will do my best.”

“I’m sure of it. I will see you in the morning to say goodbye, then.”

“Yes, sir,”

He put his hand on her back, and she settled her head onto the pillow. The paddle cracked as hard, as quick, and perhaps a bit more loudly on Deena’s bottom as it had on any of the other girls’. Deena whimpered and her right foot kicked a bit, then she sighed when the warden covered her and leaned down to kiss the top of her head.

“Goodnight, Deena.”

“Goodnight, sir, thank you, sir,” she mumbled.

Lulled into a dream-like state by fatigue, hypnotized by the off-hand awfulness that had occurred over the past few minutes, Franny’s body tingled with galvanic shock when she suddenly awoke and realized that the penultimate scene had finished, and that its primary actor was even then walking round to play that same role, only with her as costar. She did her best to smile, but her jaw ached so much from gritting her teeth that she gave it up as a bad job and simply tried her best not to whimper or squeal before he even touched her.

“Good evening, Franny.” He paused a moment, but when an instant response was not forthcoming, he continued. “You’re our newbie Hold, yes? And you’re frightened half out of your mind, aren’t you?”

Swallowing dryness, she nodded and essayed a reply. “Yes. Sir.”

The words emerged as unpleasant, froglike croaks, but his smile never faltered. He leaned down and patted her back before letting his palm rest between her shoulder blades. Its warmth somehow reassured her as it pressed down, and her fear dissipated, replaced by a vague sense of security. Somehow she felt safe, even knowing that soon – very, very soon – he would raise that awful, horrid, beautifully made wooden board and bring it down hard on her tender, pale, all but untouched bottom, hurting her unspeakably.

A bright, cheery bang, like a holiday cracker going off, opened her eyes wide. The sharp, fiery sting that followed the bang made her squeal and blink back tears. Scarcely had the fire of the first awful smack found a habitation in her senses than a second one burst upon her burning bottom. She tried to form words, to beg to be let off, that she was only a Hold and not meant for prison punishment, when there was a third detonation in her rearward quarter, followed quickly by a fourth, then a fifth.

Short, crisp cracking sounds echoed in her ears along with the awful ringing brought on by fierce sting, as if she had hit her finger with a hammer, only the hammer were a hot, steel slab and her finger were the size of her bottom. The sharp stinging faded quickly, flowing through her and over her like a giant wave and dispersing into the sands all about her in flecks of harmless foam. Slowly, she turned to look at the warden, feeling still his hand on her back, pleased beyond measure to see the avuncular smile on his lips.

“Goodnight, Franny,” he said.

“Goodnight, sir, thank you, sir.”

Her voice was soft but sure, free of croaks and crackle. She sighed when he reached down and pulled the covers up.

“Sleep well, miss.”

He and his awful, dreadful, but somehow wonderful paddle disappeared. The lights went out, and somewhere off in the distance, she heard the sound of a heavy door close and its lock snick fast. After a long while, Franny reached back and ran a hand across her bottom, wondering if it were red and swollen. It felt achy, but not very, even when she squeezed it, and certainly not as if it had been terribly abused. She turned over and pulled her nightdress down, lying on her side and blinking out from under the covers.

 

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