In the midst of a slow moving crowd of travelers, Stephanie Pickett stepped onto the escalator. As the metal steps moved her closer to the ground floor her eyes scanned the waiting crowd of greeters below, hoping to catch a glimpse of her father. With her visit only being four days long, she knew the ride home would likely be the highlight of her trip. She looked forward to seeing her sisters, Nicole and Amanda, but dealing with their mother after three months away left a pit of apprehension growing in Stephanie’s stomach. Halfway to the bottom, Stephanie spotted her older sister, Nicole and Nicole’s husband Todd, waiting toward the back of the crowd. Her father was notably missing and his absence left two conflicting worries rolling through Stephanie’s thoughts; What happened? Did he know what she had done?
Todd and Nicole waved as Stephanie reached the bottom of the escalator. They met halfway into the midst of the crowd and Todd immediately took control of Stephanie’s single roller bag. He paused briefly, pressing his cheek against hers before turning and attempting to navigate the way out. Nicole gave less attention to the crowd than her husband and wrapped her arms around Stephanie, capturing her in a warm hug and planting a kiss on her cheek. Stephanie returned the hug without the kiss as fellow travelers and their greeters pushed past them like they were an annoying pebble splitting the natural flow of a stream.
Stephanie pulled back from the embrace and asked, “Where’s Dad?”
Nicole smiled and glanced at her watch. “I would imagine he’s either out at the shed oiling up the strap or heading there to do it.”
Stephanie’s face blanched. Nicole laughed.
Todd stopped his forward momentum and turned toward the sisters. “Are you two coming or do you like standing in every one’s way?”
Stephanie’s heart started pumping again at the glint of mischievous in her sister’s eyes. She shook her head, bouncing her neat ponytail from shoulder to shoulder and doing her best to laugh at herself so that Nicole wouldn’t think too hard on the worry that had crossed her face. Stephanie started walking toward Todd and Nicole kept pace beside her, still smiling.
“Nice one,” Stephanie said, placing her hand on the back of Nicole’s neck and squeezing with mock anger.
Nicole laughed a little harder, dipping her head forward and ducking away from Stephanie’s hold. “Actually, I was serious.”
Stephanie faked calmness and said, “Oh really? Is somebody in trouble?”
Todd nodded as they joined him. “You could definitely say that.”
Looking at Stephanie, Nicole said, “In fact, I think it’s safe to say you know more about this trouble than anyone.”
Stephanie’s hands grew clammy. She took all the precautions she could imagine. The evidence would have only been visible with the most scrutinous of examinations. She sighed. No matter what she did, no matter how hard she tried to hide it, they always found out the things she didn’t want them to know. Even in the worst case scenario though, she just hadn’t thought they could figure it out until after the semester was over. She should have been safe for Thanksgiving, but whatever mistake she had made to give herself away, there would be plenty of time to think about it while she was recovering from the strap, bare bottom in a corner. This was definitely not the holiday at home she’d been expecting.
Todd said, “I thought your mom was going to blow a gasket when she found it. She came running down the stairs like a rhino on a rampage and with a face as red as a fire engine. I swear I could see the steam pouring out of her ears.”
Stephanie took short quick breaths to steady the butterflies swarming in her stomach. She nodded her head and kept her gaze focused on the floor as they continued walking toward the parking garage. It sounded about right for Mom’s reaction, but the reaction she really wanted to know about was her father’s. The image of his face floated behind her eyes and it wasn’t anger he was conveying with his eyes, it was disappointment and so much of it as to make her wish for an early grave.
Nicole said, “I know it’s probably not what you wanted to come home to, but before you even think of asking, we don’t have any room at our place.”
Todd chuckled agreement. “That’s right, one naughty Pickett girl is more than enough for any man.”
“Hey!” Nicole said and slapped his upper arm. “I haven’t had a spanking in almost two years.”
“That doesn’t mean you aren’t naughty,” Todd said smiling at his wife, “and I seem to recall—
Nicole started to blush and slapped his arm again, a little harder. “That doesn’t count and we’re not talking about it in front of my little sister.”
Todd face turned a little more serious. “Hit me again and I’ll give your little sister a demonstration in the parking lot. And it will count.”
Nicole laughed, still blushing. “Stephanie is very familiar with spankings, but if you want to give her one in the parking lot, I won’t stop you.”
The laughter and casual teasing pushed Stephanie to the point she no longer cared if she made things worse. Enough was enough. “A spanking with Dad’s strap is no laughing matter,” she said and looked straight at her sister. “You know that just as well as I do and I don’t think it’s been so long you should be acting like you don’t remember.”
Nicole stopped laughing and nodded her head. “You’re right,” she said. “It’s just Amanda has always gotten away with way more than either of us and I was enjoying her finally getting some just desserts. Probably a little too much.”
Stephanie turned away from her sister and blinked at the concrete under her feet. Dad oiling the strap, Mom raging down the stairs, it was all about Amanda? That meant they didn’t know. The butterflies started to settle down in her stomach. She was safe. It might even be a nice quiet holiday at home. The kind of trip she had hoped for and needed after how wrong things had been going at school. She raised her head and looked at Nicole again. “What did she do to make Mom that mad?”
Nicole said, “I thought you would have guessed by now.”
Stephanie raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“She left a wet bath towel on her bedroom floor for half the day,” Nicole said.
Stephanie nodded her head with new understanding. The bath towel thing was one of Mom’s crazy rules. Stephanie had a long standing habit of ignoring Mom’s crazy rules. Most of the time she got away with it too because Mom often never found out. That’s part of why Stephanie considered the rules crazy; If Mom didn’t directly witness it being broken, she would never know if it had or hadn’t been. Obviously, Stephanie didn’t always get away with it though and the bath towel issue had landed her in more hot water over the years than a cupboard full of bath towels could absorb.
“Dad agreed to the strap over that?” Stephanie asked. It didn’t seem like him to be so harsh over something so stupid.
Nicole shook her head. “Apparently Amanda has been taking lessons from you, only she must have been taking it farther.”
“You mean she’s been doing this a lot since I went back to school?” Stephanie asked.
Todd chuckled. “You could say that. It’s the first she’d been caught, but when your Mom picked up the towel she found a big spot of black mold on the carpet.”
Stephanie shrugged. “So, maybe the towel was molding.”
Nicole nearly choked on her tongue from laughing. “That’s exactly what Amanda said. I swear sometimes the two of you share a brain.”
“I guess Dad wasn’t happy then,” Stephanie said. He was normally the voice of reason when Mom’s crazy rules got broken.
“You could say that,” Nicole said. “Mom finally got the last word on changing out the carpet in the house and now she has proof that’s she’s been right about the towel’s on the floor being a mold hazard. Dad is probably hoping he goes deaf soon cause you know Mom is going to be gloating about this for the next twenty years.”
Todd glanced over his shoulder as he led them through the parking lot. “Just a word to the wise, Steph, you probably don’t want to tempt fate with your own bath towel anytime in the next decade.”
Nicole nodded. “Dad sure won’t be backing you up or going easy anytime soon.”
“So he really took her out to the shed and strapped her?” Stephanie asked. Amanda could probably count on her fingers the number of times she’d been sent to the shed in her 19 years of life. On the other hand, Stephanie had lost count at how many times she’d gone in just the last two years. For some reason Stephanie couldn’t quite explain, being away at college seemed to have her landing in more trouble at home than when she had lived with her parents full time.
“Actually,” Nicole said, “He strapped her right in the living room cause Mom wanted to watch to make sure Dad did a thorough enough job.”
Todd whistled. “The fire in the fireplace had nothing on your poor sister’s posterior.”
“You saw?” Stephanie asked. Getting spanked around family was bad enough, but knowing that extended family like Todd, or worse, friends and or neighbors who happened by, would see and hear the spanking was the sort of thing to leave Stephanie blushing scarlet for days and sometimes weeks after the incident. There was nothing like that knowing twinkle in some one’s eye to make her feel all of two years old and stark naked despite being modestly dressed and a grown woman.
Todd shook his head. “Sadly I missed the main event. Your Mom’s got her cleaning all the floors in the house with a toothbrush while keeping her bare bottom visible to anyone who looks.”
Nicole shook her finger at Todd. “You shouldn’t be looking. She’s my baby sister.”
Todd shook his head with a grin on his face. “Guess what? You married a guy and if a 19 year old cutie is going to walk around bare butt, a guy is going to look. Even if it is your sister.”
They reached the car and Todd opened the trunk, tossing Stephanie’s roller bag inside. He opened the doors on the passenger side one at time, seating Stephanie in the back and Nicole in the front and closing their doors for them. He sat in the driver’s seat, turned on the ignition and fastened his seat belt in place while Nicole and Stephanie did the same.
Stephanie asked, “So is she grounded?”
Nicole turned around to look at Stephanie. “Nope. Mom thought that would be too mean since she’s got her new boyfriend coming over tomorrow. It would be pretty awkward having to explain why Amanda was bare butt in the corner while the rest of us were enjoying dinner.”
Stephanie shook her head. “Mom’s gone soft.”
Todd chuckled. Nicole laughed.
“I doubt you’ll be saying that if you step out of line while your back,” Nicole said.
Stephanie rolled her eyes and nodded agreement. “Fortunately, I’m only back for four days. I have to be back at school on Monday.”
Todd said, “And then you’ll be back in another three weeks for about six weeks if I recall correctly. Sounds like plenty of time to get yourself in trouble or to continue any punishment you earn in the next few days.”
Nicole nodded. “And Todd will be sure to look if you do.”
Stephanie laughed. “I’m sure he would like to, but I’m not planning on giving him the chance.”