***The following story is based in part on actual events, fictionalized and embellished for your entertainment. The names have been changed to protect the guilty, the innocent, and the author.***
I awoke to the cold shrill of the alarm clock beside my bed. It was late autumn and I shivered as I reached from beneath my warm covers to slap the offending alarm back into silence. The cold breath of morning air was enough to push away the last vestiges of sleep and any thoughts I might have had of returning to the comfortable oblivion of my dreams. Resigned to the waking world, I threw aside my covers and jumped from bed, wrapping myself in the warmth of my robe as I hurried out my bedroom door. The race was on.
As I rushed down the hall toward the bathroom I heard the sounds of my siblings rising. The door to my left swung open and my brother burst into the hall just in front of me. I brushed past him enjoying watching the sleepy smirk on his face turn to a frown as I entered the bathroom two steps ahead of him. Under an impish impulse from days long past I stuck my tongue out at him as my hand grasped the edge of the door and began to swing it closed. My tongue froze in place when the door stopped short by the insertion of my father’s foot.
My heart skipped a beat and my cheeks had the good sense to blush red, caught in the embarrassingly childish act of taunting my brother with my tongue. Fortunately Dad’s eyes were amused although you might not have guessed it by the stern lock of his jaw and the wagging finger he raised toward my nose. I narrowly avoided rolling my eyes in annoyance at Dad’s interference and braced myself for a lecture about proper behavior for a young woman my age. Usually Dad never tires of such lectures, but he had other concerns for a change.
Dad said, “I’m sure I don’t have to remind you, but this is not a morning for dallying in the shower. Company is going to be here in about three hours and you aren’t the only one who needs to shower still.”
My tongue had a sudden and nearly irresistible urge to re-emerge from my mouth, but I managed to contain it by huffing up on attitude. “I’m not five.”
Dad’s eyes stopped laughing. “Don’t get sassy with me, young lady. I’m just giving you fair warning to be out of there in a half hour or less if you don’t want to be sporting a red backside when company arrives.”
My brother took the opportune moment, hidden behind Dad’s back, to stick his tongue out in my direction. The smirk was back on his face and it irritated me enough that I decided it was necessary to prove myself unfazed and unafraid of Dad’s threat. In retrospect this probably wasn’t my finest moment in reasoning.
As Dad’s foot retreated from the doorway I said, “Whatever. I’ll be out when I’m out,” and I closed the door.
Dad raised his voice to be certain I heard him through the closed door. “I’m serious April.”
“Uh huh,” I said and flicked on the switch for the fan to drown out anything else he might have said. Again, this probably wasn’t the wisest course of action.
I turned the water on in the shower, opening the hot water valve all the way and stepped back waiting for the room to begin filling with steam. It irked me to no end that my father felt the need to warn me about taking too long of a shower at my age. Sure, I’d taken long showers in the past and even in the not so distant past, but that was beside the point. It was Thanksgiving morning and he had to think pretty low of me if he thought I wasn’t smart enough to figure out this wasn’t a morning for a long shower.
Having grown up with four older sisters and a younger brother, I was no stranger to the difficulties of sharing the bathroom. For as long as I could remember we had raced to the entrance every morning in order to secure our access to the best hot water and least wait. Dad wouldn’t have bothered saying a word to any of my siblings, but me, well just because I had taken an hour long shower one time on a holiday when I was like ten years old, he felt I needed reminding about bathroom courtesy. A full decade later and he was still acting like I had just done it yesterday. It was annoying to the point I almost wanted to time myself to ensure I did take a full hour.
The steam began filtering beyond the tub and the mirror fogged over. I exited my robe and pajamas and stepped into the shower. The water beaded on my skin and poured through the long strands of my hair, running down my back. Everything should have just flowed away, but I closed my eyes and the incident with my father replayed itself in my mind. My brother’s smirk and wagging tongue vexed me toward insanity. I would prove to him, to both of them, that I’d take as long of a shower as I pleased and there was nothing they could do about it. Or so I thought at that point in time. Yeah, I know, another not so bright idea.
I wasn’t so much determined to test my father’s resolve as I was to prove I wasn’t going to be swayed by threats. It seemed to me the best way to prove that was to take my shower as if nothing had been said at all and so I did. I lathered up with soap, scrubbed my hair and doused it with a healthy dose of conditioner. My indignation began to fade away and I almost forgot all about it. I was rinsing my hair, humming to myself, comfortable in the warmth of the water and feeling cleaner by the second when the bathroom door flung open and bounced against its stop.
My arms snaked in front of me and I emitted a shallow, obligatory scream. Dad walked purposefully into the bathroom, grabbed the shower door and slid it open. His hand reached inside the shower and turned the water spray off while he glared at me all the while. I stared back at him, mouth agape and speechless.
Dad grabbed at my arm and lost his grip due to the unrinsed soap suds still present. He scowled deeper at me and grabbed hold of my hair, pulling me sideways out of the tub. “I warned you,” he said.
I decided pointing out the blaringly obvious was the appropriate response rather than defending myself. “You’re pulling my hair!”
“March.” Dad’s firm grasp of my hair and deliberate pace toward the hallway made it clear it was an order rather than a suggestion.
Embarrassed about being naked, soapy, and wet I decided to try and mask it with some less than wise humor. “I’m April, remember Dad?”
Dad’s hand slapped my left butt cheek and I yelped, kicking my corresponding leg into the air slightly. “You’ll be Cherry Red by the time company gets here. I wonder if you’ll still think it’s all a joke then?” Dad asked. He slapped the right side and I responded accordingly. His hand alternated back and forth from cheek to cheek making my soapy, wet butt sting. I tried to twist away from him, but his grip on my hair kept me from doing more than dancing around in a semi-circle. I’m guessing if I’d seen myself flailing around in all my naked glory I’d have turned beet red. It’s not like his slaps hurt that much, but the reaction was impulsive to the stinging and the undeniable intent on my Dad’s face. I was in for it and his hand slapping my naked bottom was definitely the least of things I should have been worried about.
We entered the hallway, Dad’s free hand still slapping at my butt and my brother, along with two of my sisters were all lined up to watch. I tried to avoid looking at them as Dad marched me down the hall toward the stairs, but it was impossible not the see the satisfaction in their eyes. None of us were immune to Dad’s discipline and it was always nice to see someone else in trouble as long as you weren’t next in line. Of course on this occasion I wasn’t exactly in line because there was no waiting. Well almost no waiting anyway and I’m not sure whether I would have preferred more or less.
As we started down the stairs, Dad slowed his pace enough for me to hold the railing and take careful steps to avoid sliding to the bottom on my wet bottom. I’m sure his motivation was a purely selfish desire to be the one and only person imparting redness on my backside. At the bottom of the stairs he stood me in the middle of the tile floor right next to the front door. He let go of my hair and my hands couldn’t decide if they wanted to protect my modesty or comfort my head. Either way I was dripping a puddle onto the floor.
Dad wagged his finger in front of my nose and I tried to follow it with my eyes until I got dizzy. He said, “You are going to stand here with your hands behind your head and wait until I come back. Is that understood?”
I asked, “Do I have a choice?”
“Yes,” Dad said and pointed to the front door, “you can turn around and walk out the door and find your own place to live.”
I raised my hands to rest behind my head and offered a wide smile at Dad despite the fact I was far from happy. He continued to point at the door and glare at me for a long quiet moment before turning his back, apparently satisfied that I understood him. My biggest fear right at that moment was that he would wait to come back until the doorbell rang with our imminent company on the other side. I knew I was in for a spanking, but getting it in front aunts, uncles, and cousins seemed a fate far worse than death or possibly walking out the door naked. I suppose it would have been better had I thought of such things while I was in the shower.