“Explain to me again,” Rachel said, standing beside her little brother’s bed, “why exactly can’t Richard and Michelle change their own sheets?” She rolled the dirty sheets into a ball and tossed them across the room to land in a puddle beside the open doorway.
Her mother stood in the doorway, holding the stack of clean sheets and watching Rachel with a scrutinous eye. “They can,” she said, stepping into the room and dropping the clean sheets on the center of the barren mattress, “but you’re doing it because I said so. If you don’t like it, you can always try behaving yourself in the future.”
Rachel threw a sour look in her mother’s direction, but turned her attention to the sheets before her mother could decide to do something about it. Tucking the new sheets tight into the corners, Rachel moved around the bed, making a show of kicking aside the collected mess of dirty clothes, loose papers and assorted trash lying on the floor. She jumped catching movement in the corner of her eye, but relaxed when she realized her mother was simply taking a moment to look out the window at the street below.
“Looks like the storm is letting up,” Mrs. Bennett said.
Thunder rattled the window, but in its aftermath the morning’s constant pelter of raindrops on the roof was absent. Rachel joined her mother at the window, looking out at the street below. The mail truck pulled up to the curb in front of the house and the mailman reached out, shoving a plastic wrapped pack of mail into the box.
“Perfect timing,” Mrs. Bennett said as the truck moved up the street. “Finish up with the bed and you can go fetch the mail. If you hurry, you might even avoid the rain.”
Rachel gestured at herself calling attention to her lack of outdoor attire. She was wearing nothing more than her bra and panties. “I’m not going outside like this.”
Mrs. Bennett turned, facing Rachel fully in a hands on hips pose. “Sooner or later you’re going to realize arguing with your father and me when you’re already in trouble only gets you in more of it. But you can take some pleasure in being right,” she said, nodding her head. “because you won’t be going out in your bra and panties. You can go in just your panties. Take your bra off and hand it over.” She held her hand out in the space between them.
Rachel’s eyes popped at her mother. “Mom!”
Mrs. Bennett lowered her chin a notch and stared straight into Rachel’s panicked eyes. “I’m going to count to three and if I’m not holding your bra in my hand, you’ll be taking your panties off too and I promise, you’ll still be going out to get the mail. One.”
Rachel gaped at her mother like a fish drowning in the air. She blinked and looked down, no longer able to meet her mother’s gaze. The whole day was going from bad to worse and yet it seemed her other plans were going perfectly right. “It’s not fair.”
“Two,” Mrs. Bennett said.
Reaching behind her, Rachel unfastened the clips holding her bra in place. It slid down her arms into her hands, leaving her untanned bosom exposed. She swung the bra in the air toward her mother’s hand and let it go. Her mother held it dangling from her fingers and Rachel crossed her arms over her chest, hiding her stiffening nipples from view. An angry blush colored her cheeks.
“If you think you’re going to stand around covering yourself all weekend, you’ve got another thing coming, young lady,” Mrs. Bennett said. She pointed at the bed. “Now, finish making the bed and come along. This lull won’t last all day and the mail isn’t going to fetch itself.”
Rachel stomped around the bed to the pillows laying on the floor. She fluffed them with anger and slapped them down against the headboard. Her shaking hands grabbed hold of the comforter lying at the foot of the bed and she pulled it up into place, tucking the pillows beneath it at the headboard. Her mother picked up the pile of dirty sheets from beside the door and beckoned Rachel to follow her out of Richard’s room and down the stairs. They stopped on the tile floor leading to the front door.
“Mom,” Rachel said, a pleading tone dominating her voice, “someone might see me.”
The left corner of Mrs. Bennett’s mouth turned up in a half-smile. “Despite what you might think, the embarrassment won’t kill you.”
Rachel dragged her feet on the cold floor and grasped hold of the doorknob, facing the inevitable. “No, but the pneumonia might.”
Mrs. Bennett rolled her eyes. “Well then I suppose you’ll just have to hurry and if you like, you can spend fifteen minutes in the corner next to the fireplace when you get back.”
“What I’d like a full set of clothes,” Rachel said.
Mrs. Bennett said, “You should have thought of that earlier. Now stop wasting time and go get the mail or would you like to take your panties off first?”
Rachel turned the doorknob and pulled the door open without gracing her mother with a response. She stepped outside and shivered as the cold air raised goosebumps on her skin. In a futile bid for warmth and modesty, she wrapped her arms over her breasts and leaned her head forward, beyond the edges of the entryway alcove. There was an entire neighborhood to see, but all she could hear was the rustle of the trees, blowing in the wind.
Mrs. Bennett said, “By the looks of it, I’d say the rain will be back any minute so, if I were you, I wouldn’t waste time trying to avoid being seen. But it’s up to you, just know you aren’t coming back in without the mail.”
Rachel took another step forward on the entry step and pretended to ignore her mother. The front door closed behind her and a moment later she heard the click of the deadbolt. She spun around, staring at the door and blinking away in disbelief. She reached out to the doorknob and found it was indeed locked. It wasn’t that it made a real difference in what she had to do, but the act was like a slap in the face. She turned back to the outside world and sniffed back tears.
She moved to the edge of the entry step, keeping her arms folded over her naked chest. The shadow of the alcove still hid her from the neighborhood, or at least she hoped it did as she turned her head to the left and the right, peering out at the street. Her ears twitched at the sounds of draining water, running off the roof and spilling into the gutters. Clouds of her frosty breath floated away from her hiding spot as she watched and listened for any signs of potential spectators. All she could detect was the hum of traffic from the main road down the hill and beyond the gates of the neighborhood.
A rumble of thunder sent a nervous shudder through Rachel, leaving her toes tingling on the wet concrete. She raised her head to look across the street at the Sullivan’s house. Her gaze locked on the second story window above the garage where the blind seemed to be moving for a moment. The house was a similar layout to her own and she knew the window belonged to the bedroom of the Sullivan’s twelve year old son. She had babysat for him only a week ago.
Logic told her that the boy was in school, like all boys and girls his age, but the moving blind taunted her with the chance he was home, perhaps sick, perhaps on account of the storm. The reason mattered little in the face of the possibility of being seen by him. He would taunt her with the memory, with the fact that she, unlike him, was still subject to childish, humiliating punishments.
Clearing her fears from her vision, she looked at the window again. If there had been any movement at all, there was no more. She tried to convince herself it was just nerves and imagination. The wind gusted into the alcove, whipping her hair against the wood paneled wall and she shivered.
Another glance up and down the street convinced her she was as alone or at the very least, not being openly watched. She stepped down from the entry alcove and onto the open path leading to the driveway. The standing sheen of water on the path sent chills up her feet and legs. She splashed her way along the concrete, keeping her shoulders hunched down and her freezing breasts covered with her folded arms. At the driveway, she looked up and down the street, sparing a glance at the houses across the street as well and determined she was still unwatched.
She padded halfway down the driveway, keeping her eyes darting around the neighborhood. The mailbox was only a dozen steps away, but the sky opened up, dropping a burst of hard rain upon her. She yelped at the sudden cold, drenching her naked skin from head to toe. Panic and desperation sent her running back up the driveway to hide beneath the eaves. The rain fell harder, splattering her feet and legs as it pelted the driveway and the temperature seemed to drop, evidenced by the larger clouds of her breath hovering in the air beside the dark brown of the garage door.
The rain settled into a steady stream, pouring down from the charcoal clouds hanging in the sky. Rachel squeezed herself against the garage door as if her mere proximity to it would hide her from view. She remained hunched with her arms wrapped around her while her eyes focused on the mailbox, so close and yet far, far away. A flicker of light in her periphery grabbed her attention and she turned her head toward the source. Across the street to the left, a light had snapped on inside the living room of the Jacob’s house.
Mr. Jacob was commonly known as the neighborhood grouch. He walked the neighborhood on a nearly daily basis with a notepad and pen, jotting down every menial association violation he could spot. At the monthly meetings he would send his notes along with recommendations on fines or other punitive measures he thought were fair. To say he was hated by his neighbors would be a little extreme, but he wasn’t on any of their Christmas lists.
Rachel had a few minor encounters with him in the past, but there was one more serious situation which plagued her mind as she crouched beneath the eaves staring at the light emanating from his living room window. She had been a senior in high school at the time and had just recently passed the state exam and received her driver’s license. It was a warm spring day and she had spent most of it shopping at the local outlets with friends, enjoying her new found freedom.
The trouble came when she was almost home. She hadn’t really allowed herself enough time from leaving the outlets to get back home by the hour her parents were expecting her, but a little lead in her foot helped cure that problem. Mr. Jacob was out on one his daily walks when she had come around the corner onto her street driving a fast 40mph. In her rear view mirror she got to watch him gesturing like a lunatic and anyone outside for a square mile had to hear him shout for her to slow down. She blew him off without so much as finger gestured at him, though the thought crossed her mind.
A few minutes after she had returned home and was already relaxing upstairs in her bedroom, Mr. Jacob rang the bell. Hearing his voice, she had the good sense to creep to the top of the stairs and listen while he scolded her parents for bad parenting skills and letting their wild daughter behind the wheel of something as dangerous as a car. It wasn’t long before Rachel had been called downstairs to explain herself. Naturally, she lied.
Mr. Jacob had the gall to call her a liar straight to her face and even question her parents sanity for taking the word of a hormone impaired teenager over him. Unbelievably, her parents started to sway to his way of thinking after her pointed out something about the likelihood of her saying just about anything to avoid having her panties lowered and her butt spanked like a little girl. Things weren’t looking so good for her immediate future and then the unexpected happened.
Richard showed up on the doorstep fresh from playing ball with his friends. He’d apparently overheard enough to know what was going on and had in fact seen the whole incident because he’d been playing nearby with his friends. The amazing part was that instead of sinking her, he actually saved her butt.
He told their parents that it was in fact Mr. Jacob who was lying and totally over reacting because he’d stepped off the curb right in front of her, making her swerve to avoid him and then had the nerve to swear at her. Their parents sent Mr. Jacob home without a show. After that, she had made sure Richard never wanted for a ride anywhere.
She had all but forgotten the incident, but crouched under the eaves as she was his final words to her on the afternoon came back to haunt her. “One way or another I’ll see justice done and if I have it my way, it’ll be your naked butt getting blistered right out here on the sidewalk for all to see.” Given her current situation, the words seemed a little more like a prophecy than the hollow words of an angry man that she had once dismissed them as being.
Beyond the light in his living room, she could see nothing of Mr. Jacob or his wife. The rain showed no signs of letting up as Rachel looked up and down the street. The buzz of cars on the main road reminded her that the longer she was outside, the more chance there was of someone catching an eyeful of her. She bit her lip and decided there was no point in waiting any longer. Arms wrapped over her breasts and shoulders hunched down, she scurried out into the rain and down to the mailbox.
Keeping her left arm in place to partially hide her boobs, she reached out and flipped down the mailbox door. The mail was stuffed inside and wrapped in a plastic bag, damp with rain and her right hand proved to be insufficient to get a good hold of it. She gave up on covering herself and reached inside with both hands. The wet crunch of wheels rolling over asphalt stopped her cold. A car engine purred in close proximity behind her.
The whir of an electric window rolling down sent panic shooting through her nerves. Open mouthed, she spun toward the source. She recognized Mr. Purdue, the high school librarian from up the street, sitting behind the wheel. His eyes were a little wide as he stared out at her. It took Rachel a moment to follow his gaze to her naked breasts and when she did, she hurriedly wrapped her arms in front of herself once more. Her face blazed hotter and redder than a rocket’s red glare.
“You know,” Mr. Purdue said in his typical relaxed tone, “topless sunbathing is usually more effective when the sun is shining.”
Rachel stared at the empty passenger seat beside Mr. Purdue rather than meeting his amused gaze. “I um... wasn’t... I mean this isn’t... well my parents... what I mean is I’m uh.... well uh.. I’m being uh...”
“Punished?” Mr. Purdue said.
“I figured from the state of your backside,” Mr. Purdue said, causing Rachel to blush even brighter. “The last time I saw you wearing this little with your backside that red was when Principal Newsome put you on litter patrol for skipping classes. Don’t tell me you’ve been up to those same old tricks at college?”
It was another incident she preferred not to recall, but for a moment she couldn’t help picturing herself walking around the school grounds after classes wearing nothing but a netted orange vest and picking up trash with plastic tongs. The vest had left her breasts plainly visible through the netting and the length in the back had left her spanked buttocks cleanly displayed from the back. A half dozen geeky boys had followed her on the rounds for the entire week.
The red in Rachel’s cheeks turned darker as she shook her head. “Why doesn’t anybody see I’ve grown up since those days?” she asked. “It’s like everyone judges me based on the past instead of the present.”
“Obviously you’ve grown up,” Mr. Purdue said as his gaze drifted to Rachel’s arm covered boobs, “but judging by your present situation, I’d have to say you’re as recalcitrant as ever.”
Rachel rolled her eyes as a gust of wind whipped the rain into her like a crashing wave. In the aftermath she shivered and said, “Shouldn’t you be at school?”
“Budget cuts,” Mr. Purdue said. “The library opens late on Fridays these days and I waited a little longer this morning, hoping the storm might let up some for the drive in.”
“Not much chance of that, I think,” Rachel said, looking up into the falling rain.
Mr. Purdue nodded. “Well, I don’t want to keep you. You should probably hurry up and get back inside before you catch cold or someone decides to take your panties down and add more color to your behind.”
Rachel nodded in agreement. Mr. Purdue rolled his window up and she turned to the mailbox. With both hands she reached inside and pulled the stuffed plastic bag of mail free from the box. Mr Purdue pulled away and she shuddered as another gust of wind whipped her hair and chilled her bones. She closed the mailbox and hurried up the drive toward the house.
She stepped into the alcove and out of the rain and heard the sound of another vehicle on the street. Curiosity momentarily overrode embarrassment and she spun her head just in time to watch Miles pull into the driveway. It wasn’t as if she had thought he wouldn’t be coming back, but she had hoped to have been inside and a little less conspicuous when he did. She turned back to the door and rang the bell, hoping her mother would let her in before Miles and Jennifer joined her on the doorstep.
It didn’t happen that way.
“Wow!” Miles said and whistled as he joined her on the doorstep. “I bet if you pulled those panties down the blaze would scare the rainclouds right out of the sky.”
Rachel fought a smile and tilted her head at her brother. “We can try it, but if you lose, you’ll have to spend the weekend naked in my place. Deal?”
Miles chuckled. “Nice try little sis.”
Rachel shrugged and allowed a half-hearted smile for her brother. Miles winked and dug into his pocket for keys. The hollow echo of heels clattering up the walk behind them faded the smile from her lips.
Jennifer said, “I don’t think little is the right word, Miles. She’s obviously grown to big for her britches, not to mention her bra and the rest of her clothes.”
Rachel turned sideways just enough to glare. “At least I didn’t chose my lack of appropriate attire. What’s your excuse? Was there another accident report you needed to flirt your way out of?”
Jennifer’s eyes narrowed and her lips pursed into a frown. Her furrowed brow told Rachel she had struck a nerve and while she was pleased, she also realized she had probably said a little too much in her haste to spit a retort at her brother’s bitchy bimbo. Fortunately, Miles unlocked the door and pushed it open before anymore reckless words were thrown around.
Miles stepped inside and held the door for Jennifer to follow. Looking to Rachel he said, “Sorry, but I’m sure Mom or Dad will let you in when they’re ready.”
Jennifer grabbed the edge of the door and Miles stepped away. Keeping her voice low, Jennifer said, “When I was growing up, we always kept the family bitch on the porch.” She flashed Rachel a catty smile and pushed the door closed.
Rachel fumed at the closed door, her blood boiling even hotter when she heard the snap of the deadbolt. “I bet you spent a lot of time on the porch then.”