The lights dimmed. In the same moment, the entire atmosphere in the common room changed. The hushed conversations ceased, replaced by the rustling noises associated with the girls putting away their evening’s recreation. From the corner of my eye, I spied Katherine Chambers shutting off the television. Less than a minute later, the soft pitter-patter of girls ascending the stairs echoed in the emptiness of the common room. I remained, nose to the wall and hands on head, in the corner. Thinking I was finally alone, the temptation to turn from the corner grew strong, almost irresistible.
The sound of Katherine’s voice startled me. “I’m impressed,” she said, “most newbies require extra motivation to keep proper position throughout their first extended corner time.”
It was hardly my first extended period of corner time. My uncle felt a red bottom should be displayed as long as it glowed or at least until bedtime. Things weren’t always that bad, but often enough that I’d learned to keep position for as long as he demanded it. His paddle had easily persuaded me the benefits of obedience far outweighed the pangs of discomfort it might cause. I considered thanking her for the compliment, but my evening’s humiliating stand in the corner had been solely her own idea. It was dishonest to suggest I was grateful.
“Hmm, silence,” Katherine said. “Perhaps you’d like to spend the night contemplating your sore backside and the reason for it. I can make the arrangements, though I dare say most of our girls find it quite uncomfortable and chilling.” She laughed. “What do you say Scarlet, a night on the perch or would you prefer a bed?”
I stared at the corner. My uncle had sometimes gave me choices. He often liked giving me the opposite of my choice, unless of course it was the choice he wanted. It was possible Katherine shared his twisted sense of humor. However, the strict discipline was the reason I chose Rosecliff Institute in the first place. “I’d prefer a bed, but I’m well aware my preferences on the matter are irrelevant.”
“Turn around,” Katherine said. She was smiling. “You should do just fine here. Let’s get you to your apartment.” She pivoted and walked toward the door marked, Staff Only.
I followed and walked through the door as she held it open. It led into a hallway with a staircase at the far end. On either side of the walkway, spaced equidistantly along the length, were a total of six doors. The walls were painted white, the doors were painted blue. We stopped in front of the second door on the left. Black numbers identified it as 104.
Katherine unlocked the door, pushed it open and handed me the key. “Here we are.”
I stepped inside. She followed. The apartment lights were brighter than those in the hall. Directly in front of us, my luggage was stacked in a small collection at the edge of the living room. The room was furnished with a beige couch, a matching armchair with footstool, and an oval, cherry stained coffee table. I walked past the luggage and stood beside the armchair, feeling the soft, plush fabric. Looking around I noticed a furnished dining room, small kitchen and a staircase leading down. I looked at Katherine. “It’s bigger than I expected.”
She nodded. Her hand gestured toward my luggage. “Your personal things are here, but per the conditions of your current punishment you are not permitted to dress. If you feel the presence of your clothing might be too much of a temptation I can wait while you unpack and then lock your closet and drawers. When Dean Rosecliff signs off on your discipline’s completion, I will unlock them. The choice is yours, but if you are caught wearing anything, the consequences will be added to your existing punishment.”
I looked at my luggage. Unpacking was the last thing I wanted to do. “I think I can resist any temptation.”
Katherine nodded and took a single step backward, toward the door. “I realize you’re new and haven’t had a chance to fully absorb the policies here, but while you’re undergoing discipline you are expected to address your superiors in the same respectful manner as our students address us all. As I am the House Mother you should call me Miss or Ms. Chambers, as you prefer. Understood?”
I blinked at her. “Yes, Ms. Chambers.”