Atonement

25Sep12

atonement after a sound switchingThe Denver train pulled in with a screech of iron on iron that jangled the nerves of every cowpoke in town and might have even roused one or two of the residents on Boot Hill. Then with a judder and a hiss it came to a full stop in a great cloud of steam.

In the old days people used to come for miles to greet the train, but that was back in the 70s after the War Between the States; these days few people paid it any mind.

Rachel Bedford had been just a girl back then, not that she would have been allowed to run with the other kids. Her parents thought that such behaviour was too undignified for a daughter of theirs. Well she didn’t feel so dignified now and not so very much older, she had come to realise.

At 25 she had come home, to whatever was left of it anyway. The porter dropped her trunk onto the rough wooden platform and extended his hand for a tip. After a glance at the trunk, perhaps her only worldly goods now, Rachel forced a smile and gave him one of the last coins in her purse and stepped onto the station.

“Oh my God,” someone cursed, “She’s back.”

Rachel cringed. She had entertained a fantasy that she could re-enter the town unnoticed, but the town was too small for that. Two women threw her a look of scorn and whispers passed between them as the hurried away as if from the devil.

“Rachel Bedford is back,” someone behind her took up the cry of the first voice and soon loud-hushed voices and the clatter of chatter, serenaded her as she considered what to do next.

“Best leave that there Mrs Bedford,” a kindly voice said. It was old Mr Martin the station keeper. “Leastways until you know what you want done with it. I’ll send it along.”

She nodded uncomfortably, especially at the implication that she might not be welcome at the ranch. She heaved a sigh that threatened to become a sob, which she hastily supressed.

“Your husband is over at the saloon,” Martin said casually. Then he added quickly, “The Lucky Strike, I mean.”

The Lucky Strike was the most respectable of the towns two bars; the other was for ranch hands, single men and widowers. Was the comment meant to be significant? What if it was? Rachel nodded and forced another nervous smile.

“I guess that’s where I’m heading then,” she said in a quiet voice to no one in particular.

*

Over at the Lucky Strike word reached John Bedford without anyone daring to approach him. The news had spread like a prairie fire and the streets were buzzing with it. One or two men at tables near him offered up pitying looks, but most just wore polite masks of curiosity.

I should never have married a woman more than half my age. The thought was a familiar one by now, an old friend he greeted every day.

“What are you going to do Mr Bedford?” The barkeep looked anxious.

“I’ll have another beer,” John drawled without looking up.

Behind him the swing doors clacked and he didn’t need to look to know who it was.

“Hello John,” Rachel said.

The hum around the Lucky Strike that had begun not five minutes before suddenly died and a man could have heard an ant going home for supper.

“You done gallivanting with slick city boys?” John said without looking up from his beer.

“It was only one John… I thought… I thought I loved him, but he… oh John, will you take me back?” Rachel wailed.

“You made a fool of me in front of the whole town,” John savours his beer, his expression sour.

“I… no I…,” Rachel heaves a huge sigh and then she breathed a single word, “Yes.”

“And you expect me to take you back?” John turned to regard his wayward wife as if seeing her for the first time.

“I guess not,” Rachel whispers, her head dropping.

“You even got the train fare out of town?” John asks, a hint of concern touching his voice.

For a moment Rachel dares to hope that he still cared and risked a glance at him, but there is nothing in his eyes to support this. Crushed, she shakes her head.

“There is always work for the likes at you over at the Silver Garter,” someone catcalled.

John draws himself up to his full and not inconsiderable height and glared in the general direction of the unseen heckler.

“What the hell has it got to do with you, any of you?” John lets his bitterness show for the first time since Rachel left him three months before.

“There right though aren’t they John?” Rachel says sadly, “I ain’t anything but a whore.”

“You watch your mouth,” John growls at her, “Afore I tan your hind-end. Come to think of it, that’s what I should have done in the first place.”

John looked away at his reflection in the mirror and took another swig of beer. Who could blame her for wanting a younger man, he thought. The man staring back looked old. Not that many would think so. There wasn’t one man in town that would cross him, not even the sheriff.

“You still could,” Rachel said softly.

“I still could what?” John rounded on her.

“Give me a licking like my Pa used to,” Rachel blushed to say it with so many to hear. “He even suggested it when we got married if you recall?”

John snorted and took another beer and then added, “I do. A wise man your Pa.”

Rachel offered him a sad smile and forgetting his anger for a moment, John laughed.

“If you take me back I’ll mind you like Pa said I was to and take a licking for what I did.” Rachel was blushing furiously, but some things needed to be said.

“If I gave you a licking for what you did, it would take until Christmas and you wouldn’t sit down ‘til the following Easter.”

“I guess not, but I guess if I had it coming,” Rachel said ruefully. “You could always hand it out on an instalment basis like that time you bought the piano from Sears.”

It was a weak joke. They had once argued about her buying fancy goods on tick.

“I’ve half a mind to do it too,” John growled.

“Then you’d take me back?”

There was a deadly hush in the room and one or two of the ladies who had crowded around the saloon door waited with arrested breath.

“You done with gallivanting, fancy talk and your spoilt ways?” John turned to face his wife now, drinking her in and hardly daring to believe that he could have her back.

“The first I can swear to. As to the other two, well I can’t rightly say that I ever meant either so it would be up to you to teach me,” Rachel said boldly.

“You said you’d take a licking?” John asked pointedly.

“Yes,” Rachel gasped, but her eyes were wide and if she had a right to, she would have prayed to God and all the angels not to have the conversation in the middle of the Lucky Strike.

“Then call it what it is, I ain’t no wife beater,” John said sternly.

“John? I’m not sure…”

“A licking you said, but what your Ma and Pa call it even when we were courting?”

“I was barely 18…” Rachel gulped and really did wish a host of heaven would carry her away.

“What did they call it? What did they do right up until the day we wed?”

“A spanking, they spanked… and sometimes…”

“How exactly?” John pressed her.

Rachel was puce now and her eyes scanned the room and saw about a hundred eager pairs of eyes witnessing her shame.

“I guess you ain’t changed,” John rasped, turning back to his beer.

“They spanked my bare bottom,” Rachel said hastily, “And if I was real bad then either Pa took a strop to me or Ma would send me out back to cut a switch.”

John nodded with satisfaction and drank the rest of his beer in one go.

“And that’s what I’m gonna do,” John drawled and turned to fix Rachel with a long hard stare.

“Yes John,” Rachel said, blushing.

“Now you get over to the hardware store and buy yourself a spanking brush. A hairbrush will do, as long as you tell the storekeeper that it’s for the other end. And I do mean tell him in a nice clear voice. If he ain’t got one, then get a bath-scrubber or one of those fancy brushes for sweeping down your Sunday best.” John let a smile flicker on his otherwise straight line of a mouth. “I got a room over at the hotel. Meet me there.”

“Yes John,” Rachel said, ducking her head and hurrying away.

As soon as she reached the swing doors to the saloon the crowd began to laugh and the hubbub quickly rattled round town that Rachel Bedford was going to get a spanking.

*

Rachel kept her head down as she crossed the street to the store. With any luck the store would be quiet and she could make a discreet purchase. She kept her eyes firmly fixed on the hem of her skirts where she held them an inch or two from the ground. She hoped the grey dress and the matching bonnet made her look like a sober woman, but it was a fool’s dream for a woman whose reputation was already shot. Even from the restricted view of her dipped headwear, which did nothing at all to hide the sunset red of her face, she could see people staring and pointing at her. Her only hope now was that the whole town hadn’t heard about her conversation with John.

“Did you hear?” It was an eager young voice, too shrill to pin on an exact age or gender, “Mrs Bedford is going to get a spanking.”

“Ooh.” The despairing wail escaped Rachel’s lips before her dignity could call it back.

The outburst was met with peels of general laughter and Rachel hurried on until her feet were hard upon the sidewalk outside the store, there she paused.

“Ain’t you gonna go in?” It was another eager voice.

“Oh go to blazes,” she said angrily to more laughter.

Any hopes that the store would be empty were dashed by the small crowd of onlookers who followed her in.

“Mrs Bedford, how nice to see you again,” the storekeeper Harris grinned, “Did you have a good… yes well, nice to see you home. A brush you wanted, I believe.”

Rachel glared at him but couldn’t hold her gaze and retreated back under her bonnet with a spreading blush.

“I have the latest thing from England, a Mason Pearson hairbrush, or would you prefer a good old American standard model,” Harris gushed, “Very sturdy.”

“Then you know what it is for?” Rachel whispered.

“What’s that?” Harris leaned forward.

“You know why I want a brush?” She tried again only a bee’s breath louder.

“I’m sorry Mrs Bedford, there does seem to be a lot of people in here today,” Harris said craning his neck with one hand forming a trumpet to his ear.

“She wants to know if you know that it is for a spanking, if you follow me,” one of the gathered matrons said in a loud disapproving voice.

The sudden onrush of laughter that greeted this caused Harris to start and pull a face.

“You mean it’s not for the head, but is to be applied to the other… eh end, so to speak,” Harris said uncomfortably, “Eh yes, I had heard something to that affect.”

Rachel nodded, unable to speak. She hoped that this humiliation would satisfying John’s instructions.

“The Mason Pearson’s the best choice for that, but a trifle more. Otherwise you would be better off with the long-handled bath brush here, but that might be… well I don’t have a small one ma’am, if you understand me.”

Rachel fumbled for some coins; the Mason Pearson was far beyond what she could pay. She eyed the fearsome bath brush with horror and quailed.

“Mrs Bedford is a lady,” Mrs Bailey, the parson’s wife put in. She had been the only customer in the store before the hoard had descended, although even she had already heard about the conversation in the saloon. “I am sure you can put the hairbrush on Mr Bedford’s account.”

Seeking agreement from Rachel with his eyes, Harris beamed at having made such an extravagant sale.

“Surely,” he said happily.

Rachel hid her embarrassment behind her bonnet as Harris wrapped the brush in brown paper and then made an excruciating departure from the press behind her.

“Make way there, you vultures,” the preacher’s wife chided.

The hotel lobby was little better as far as Rachel was concerned. It seemed that today, everybody in town had business there.

“Mrs Bedford, how nice to see you,” the clerk grinned. “Mr Bedford is already in his room, he is expecting you.”

Rachel stared back at him blankly, too embarrassed to speak.

“Room number six, second right at the top of the stares.” The clerk hid a smirk by running his tongue inside his cheek.

Rachel nodded in acknowledgement and all but ran up the stairs.

*

For a moment Rachel had visions of her fancy eastern school and seeing her old head mistress. She remembered long minutes standing outside a door waiting to be admitted. Mercifully the hotel room door was ajar and she could see John standing at the window smoking a cigar.

Smoothing her dress she took a deep breath and then went in.

“John I…” Rachel paused at the sight of the old razor strop laid out on the bed. It had been her father’s, given to John in half-jest when they first married.

“You got what I sent you for?” John said, chewing on the end of his cigar.

Rachel nodded, her eyes locked onto the strop. Then seeing her husband had turned to look, she added, “Yes Sir.”

The ‘Sir’ came naturally, as it had when addressing her father at such times.

“Make your mind up to it, I intend to pay you out thoroughly,” John said rather pompously.

She took comfort from his tone. He sounded more like the old John. The man she loved even before she her foolish flight, if she had but known it.

“Yes Sir,” Rachel said as she stood up straight. Then she quietly added, “I love you John. I didn’t know it until I ran off, but… do you forgive me?”

John looked back over his shoulder and studied her hard. Then he gave her a curt nod and murmured, “I will in good time.”

Rachel pursed her lips and nodded. It was more than she had expected; certainly more than she deserved. Then she watched as her husband stubbed out his cigar in the tray provided and began to remove his jacket.

Her heart heaved in anticipation and she suddenly felt as if she had too many arms and legs until it was all she could do not shuffle her feet and clutch at herself.

John held out his hand for the brush, regarding her with hard steel-blue eyes.

“I put it on your account,” she said, her voice catching in her suddenly dry throat. “It’s from England they tell me.”

John nodded and took it from her and unwrapped it. He held her gaze for a moment longer to accept her silent consent, then pulled an armless chair from the corner and placed it in the centre of the room. satisfied with its position, he slowly and deliberately sat down.

Rachel worked her mouth to counter the dryness and clamped her hands to her thighs.

“You remember how this is done?” John was stalling a little. He was determined to save his face, but also, he was reluctant to begin.

Rachel nodded. Her mother had always made her strip to her shift, even if father was to do the honours. Then she would have to wait. Her eyes strayed to the corner and then back at John.

He inclined his head. He had forgotten that part, but it would serve her well. Then he watched as she undressed. Revelling strangely in having his wife mind him without question for once and suddenly excited to see his wife, so long absent, unveiling herself before his eyes.

She wore a short shift, he noticed, one of the cheaper kinds. No doubt she had struggled financially for some time before coming home. Under the circumstances he appreciated this. Not only because it suggested that she had been alone soon after leaving. Also the brief garment she had been forced to procure, hid little of her legs and he even fancied he could see a suggestion of her womanhood at the hem where her thighs met.

Rachel blushed under her husband’s gaze and moved her hands to cover herself, but then removed them again. He was only looking on what was his after all.

Then John shook himself and frowned, then shot a sharp look at the corner. He saw that Rachel swallowed in response and turned to obey, the hem of her linen swirling around to reveal a hint of exposed bottom before it settled again. He allowed a small gasp and something tightened in the pit of his stomach even as something else shifted in his pants. He had forgotten how beautiful she was.

She looked meek and a little foolish facing the wall like a young’un and John noted with satisfaction the way the linen of her shift clung to her behind and nestled in the cleft of her buttocks.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” John asked as he remembered.

Rachel sucked in her cheeks and shot an accusing look back over her shoulder, but she had no grounds for complaint and she knew it. So after a pause, she reluctantly lifted her arms and placed them on her head.

At 18, she had worn her shifts long, but the one she was now wearing was a very different beast. So as her arms lifted, so did her hemline and the veil covering her bottom was raised exposing it to his gaze.

John shifted in his chair and had to loosen his collar. Her bottom was as smooth as one of the three graces and white was the snow caps on the Colorado Mountains. Taught and well-defined, her buttocks were set hard on one another, the curve of each a perfect complement for that of her hips.

“H-how long must I…?” Rachel said meekly.

“Hush,” John barked gently like a faithful hound at pups, “You’ll wait on me until I say. Besides, I need another drink first.”

With that he rang a small bell next to his chair to summon some room service.

“John, you wouldn’t,” Rachel squealed.

“That and a lot more before I am through,” he drawled, “Like I said, make your mind up to it.”

“Oh John,” Rachel whimpered, but she didn’t move from position.

*

Time stood on its end and every sound set the hairs on her neck to attention. Then suddenly, despite it being expected, the knock at the door made her jump.

“You wanted something Sir?” The voice from beyond the door was solicitous, but Hollister, the hotel manager, didn’t enter the room.

Rachel remembered him from her wedding; he was one of the town’s great and the good. She couldn’t bear for him to see her so humbled.

“I want a good whiskey, scotch if you have it, and some water for my wife. She might need it later.” John cast an eye of Rachel’s as yet unmarked bottom.

“Right away sir,” Hollister called out.

Maybe John’s request was anticipated, but even to Rachel the follow up knock came too soon.

“Come in,” John yelled after a pause, as if he were considering something.

Rachel cringed and willed herself into the point where the two walls met in front of her nose. She didn’t know if it were Hollister or the maid who entered, but one was nearly as bad as the other given her current position. Whoever it was put down a tray and something was poured into a glass. The only other sounds were the intruder’s breathing and her own heartbeat. Then whoever it was left.

For a long minute Rachel prayed that she hadn’t been noticed, but a chorus of whispers in the hallway beyond the door and one loud voice gleefully calling out, “He’s put in the corner,” put paid to that hope.

Rachel stifled a sob and a single tear rolled down one cheek.

“Perhaps that was cruel of me,” John said hesitantly as if in regret. “But…”

“It’s alright John, I am quite sure I deserve it,” Rachel said, suddenly feeling a little better.

For some reason she was put in mind of the odd satisfaction she got from prodding a sore tooth with her tongue.

“Let’s make a start. I want to be back at the ranch by nightfall.” John’s words broke into her corner-sized world and she was nervous again.

“Come here Rachel,” John said calmly.

Rachel took a deep breath and turned to face him. In the afternoon light that was breaking through the window he looked like a hero from the cover of a dime novel. His chiselled features at one and the same time reminding her of her father and the distinguished man she married; the old John. The one she had respected before the smooth-talking, poetry-spouting travelling salesman who had lured her away.

Tom, she thought bitterly. His easy smile now twisted into that of a crocodile in her mind. I wonder where he is now, she thought idly. But she truly didn’t care.

“Rachel stop dawdling and come here,” John growled.

Rachel sighed and crossed the room.

For a moment they were as strangers and he took her shoulders and turned her about and back again like a youth taking his first kiss. Then like that first kiss, it came to him naturally and she went from upright to tumbled longwise across his lap.

Rachel gasped, her mouth open in surprise, overwhelmed by the pressure of his thighs under his. She could feel his hand at a wisp of her shift and her head whipped around as he turned up the linen to again expose her bottom. Then catching sight of the lude way that her behind jutted up, she looked away again as one might avoid watching the needle find its mark at a physician’s.

John felt his throat go tight and wished he had adjusted his pants better before putting her across his knee. Her bottom was exquisite from this angle and it was like he had never really seen it before. John Bedford you are a fool to let things get so far, he chided himself. Then knowing the die was cast he reached for the hairbrush she had brought from where he had left it on the occasional table that held his whiskey glass.

Rachel felt him lean forward and was pleasantly crushed by his belly pressed into the small of her back. Then before she misconstrued his sudden hug, she heard the scrape of wood on wood and knew that he had merely reached for the Mason Pearson hairbrush.

“John I’m… I’m so sorry,” Rachel said almost wistfully.

“Uh-huh,” he said with a ‘we-will-see’ tone to his voice.

The flat of the brush landed with pistol-shot crack across both crowns of her bottom and despite herself, she squealed. Then seeing a red patch of tight little goosebumps develop there, John placed two more swats either side of the first impact, spreading the stain to encompass a healthy area of her upper curves.

Rachel took the second two swats with gritted teeth, conscious as she was of those beyond the door and in the street just below. However, the snap-crack of the impacts could be heard clearly outside so that every one of the townsfolk within hearing had a picture in their mind of Rachel Bedford’s spanking.

“Lordy, I bet she won’t sit down for a month,” someone in the crowd below said in a stage whisper that Rachel could hear all the way up in the room.

John well-knew that the eyes and ears of the town were on him and he had one chance to redeem some honour for himself and his wife. He resolved to give Rachel a spanking that their grandchildren would talk about long after he passed. So warming to his task he set about laying on biting swats that first reddened Rachel’s whole behind and then turned it burgundy from the upper curves to the underside where she sat.

So far for the townsfolk outside, the spanking was only significant as another chapter in the Bedford scandal. The women were for the most part secretly routing for a love reunited. Just as the men nodded sagely in John’s favour and for a man wronged who so easily could have been one of them.

As to the spanking itself, it was no worse than any they had imparted to their wives and daughters on any day of the week and by five minutes in, one or two shook their heads with a chuckle and went about their business.

From Rachel’s end of things it was much harder to be so sanguine. By now her bottom was on fire and any hope of taking her spanking in silence was dashed by an onrush of strained yelps quickly followed by open sobbing.

To John’s immense satisfaction, Rachel clung to him tightly, hugging into his knees and bawling out her contrition. Even the state of her bare bottom did not move him as it might once have done. The heavy swollen red that now defined her behind was temporarily rendered leather-like and here and there it was dashed with white stress marks.

In fact his decision to pause the proceedings was not the soreness of her bottom, but the fact that she no longer appeared to feel it as much.

“Get back to that corner young lady,” he growled, so far satisfied with how it was going and her humble submission.

“Yes Sir,” she wept.

It wasn’t easy getting off John’s lap and he had to help her. Rachel pulled a face as she grasped her bottom with both hands and stood there panting for a moment with her lower lip clamped in her teeth. But it took just one cross look from John and she turned around to face the corner. She cradled her bottom with her hands and took stiff-legged steps to the other side of the room to again put her hands on her head.

“I’ll save the strop for when we get home. That behind could stand a heap of grease before I tan it again, although I could always send you to cut a switch,” John mused aloud as he stared at his wife’s punished hindquarters.

“Yes John,” Rachel said miserably.

A knock at the door broke into his thoughts.

“Who is it?”

“Mrs Bailey, you know the preacher’s wife,” Mrs Bailey called back.

“Come in Mrs Bailey,” John said wearily.

Mrs Bailey was a plain woman, but despite her sober clothes she was barely 30. She had stood about as close to the Bedford’s as any in town and had seen the slow turns and tumbles of their marriage. She had some sympathy for Rachel but was unmoved by the bare-bottomed sinner in the corner and instead turned her attention to John.

“You’ve had a hard time of it,” she said sympathetically.

“I expect they are all out there having a good laugh at my expense,” John said bitterly.

“They were, but I reckon you showed them,” Mrs Bailey threw back. “And what about you young lady, Have you learned your lesson?”

“Yes ma’am,” Rachel said ruefully.

“Well if you say so,” Mrs Bailey snorted. “But I have had sorer behinds from my man for back-chat and pouring coffee on his hard-worked out sermon.”

Rachel blushed and not just at the idea of the preacher’s wife getting a spanking. If it hadn’t been for the humiliation, Rachel would have agreed she got off lightly. But she supposed the shame she was feeling was nothing to what she had put John through.

“I’ll take a strop to her in a day or two, but she’s kind of bruised now I think,” John said defensively, but he really wished the woman would leave. Suddenly he wasn’t surprised the preacher had cause to spank her. “I was gonna send her to cut a switch, but I guess she’s had enough.”

“No John, I deserve it.” Rachel blurted.

John narrowed his eyes and looked to Mrs Bailey for a reaction.

“It could do the girl no harm and I think for both your sakes, the town needs to know you have the upper hand. The spanking so far has played out like a comedy if you want to know the truth.” Mrs Bailey crossed her arms in a righteous stance.

John nodded agreement and stooped to pick up his wife’s dress from the bed. “I had better let her get dressed.”

Mrs Bailey extended a restraining arm and said, “She’s dressed just fine as she is under the circumstances.”

“Well if you think propriety will allow…” John said uncertainly.

“Rachel, turn around and look your husband in the eye and tell him you don’t deserve this,” Mrs Bailey scolded.

“Yes ma’am, I mean no ma’am… I mean, I can’t.”

Mrs Bailey held John’s eyes for a moment until he gave a nod of consent.

*

Stepping out of the hotel room dressed only in a shift that fell to cover a little more than an inch of thigh was the hardest thing Rachel had ever done. From the look on her husband’s face she could tell that one word of protest might have seen her spared such an indignity, but that alone was incentive enough to submit.

For decorum’s sake, Mrs Bailey escorted Rachel out of the hotel by a side door, for all the good it did her. Within minutes word had spread around town that a thoroughly spanked Mrs Bedford was being marched to the church for her contrition.

The church was close to the hotel and it had the only yard in town big enough to support the kind of trees and shrubs that suited their purpose. In one corner stood an apple tree and once the two women reached it, Mrs Bailey handed her temporary charge a pocket knife.

“She’s gonna cut a switch, oh my,” one of the Thompson’s unmarried daughter’s voice carried news of the sentence and made it real.

With tears pricking at her eyes Rachel hesitated, but then she remembered her husband’s pain and the undertaking she had accepted. So after a deep breath, she reached up and began cutting at a length of branch.

Rachel knew at once that raising her arms would lift the short shift off her bare bottom and display the evidence of her spanking to half the town. Strangely she took an odd pride that she had been so humbled, despite the burning shame that coloured her face fit to rival her other end.

However, one gasp of horror from Mrs Bailey, told Rachel that her stark exposure had been an unforeseen consequence and had Rachel not been so mortified she would have found the preacher’s wife’s reaction almost funny.

“Mercy me, let’s get you back inside at once,” Mrs Bailey blustered.

The apple switch now cut, Rachel was only too glad to comply.

“Rachel Bedford’s going to get a switching,” someone muttered in awe.

She certainly is, Rachel thought ruefully, and don’t you all just love it?

Back in the room Rachel handed John the switch and then went back to the corner without being told. As her red bottom came back into view on account of her putting her hands atop of her head Mrs Bailey began to feel out of her depth.

“I’ll… eh, leave you… eh, to it,” she blustered and beat a hasty retreat.

“Goodbye Mrs Bailey and thank you,” John called after her, but she had gone.

“I swear that woman acts before she thinks,” John chuckled.

Rachel managed a smile of her own.

“How did we get here,” John sighed.

“It’s all my fault,” Rachel replied sadly.

“I doubt that,” John countered and sliced the switch he had been given through the air.

“We could always dispense with the next part and just go home,” he suggested.

“And have the town think you’d gone soft,” Rachel chided him, “Besides, the worst is over now.”

“You think?” John’s voice carried an edge.

Rachel remembered the strop and John’s promise to use it at home. Sitting down would be a luxury for weeks to come, she reckoned.

“Put yourself across the bed then and let’s see if you can cut a switch worth a damn.”

Rachel remembered that in her youth, her mother would send back out with a well welted hiney on display for a fresh switch if she didn’t like the first one. It hadn’t even occurred to her to stint this time.

The memory of it served to distract as she stooped in position, only to be torn back to the present by a fierce line of fire across both bottom cheeks.

“Yeech,” Rachel squealed.

John struck again with much the same response from his wife.

In fact in the next five minutes, no amount of determination on Rachel’s part could keep her silent and as biting ridge of pain was added to biting ridge of pain, she began to twist and claw on the bed as she howled.

John watched the purple worms of flesh grow on Rachel’s bottom in fascination and took satisfaction in knowing that now the town knew he was back in charge of his wife.

“Oh John,” Rachel wailed between yelps, her bottom feeling as if it had become one fiery graze.

Finally as Rachel lay sobbing, John cast the switch aside and dropped on the bed beside her.

“Hold me,” she wept.

John pulled her to him and crushed her into his chest.

“I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry,” she sobbed.

“I know,” he whispered, tears welling up in his own eyes.

“I love you, I…” Her tears were a cascade now.

“Shush,” he said kissing her, “I never stopped loving you.”

“Oh John,” she groaned, the rest of her words ended by his mouth on hers.

*

The sun was low in the sky and the shadows from the store and other buildings opposite the hotel had almost crossed the street. Everything was bathed in a warm red glow that set every shiny surface to a clean copper colour and echoed the stain that touched Rachel’s cheeks; both upper and lower.

Someone had brought a buggy around to the front of the hotel and while John paid the bill, Rachel was left alone on the sidewalk contemplating the hard leather seat for the ride home.

At least the crowd had dispersed now, but Rachel knew that curious diehards were spying on her from the shadows, noting every wince and marking her awkward gait with amusement. It seemed to her that everyone who passed snatched a glance at her bustle area before hurrying on.

Oh my aching derrière, she thought as she resisted the temptation to rub it out there on the street. But her woeful face and every undignified pigeon step she took announced to the world ‘there goes a thoroughly spanked girl.’

Then John stopped onto the sidewalk from the hotel with a spring to his step and a stogie hanging from his mouth and Rachel smiled.

“Come on Mrs Bedford, let’s go home,” he said brightly.

“Mr Bedford, I would be glad to, only…” her eyes darted to the hard buggy seat.

“Never fear, I have a solution,” John chuckled.

“I don’t think a pillow will suffice,” Rachel said in a hushed embarrassed voice, anticipating what he would say.

He laughed and took a drag of his cigar.

“I fear you are right,” he said with a wink. “But I had something else in mind.”

Five minutes later the buggy pulled away with a thoroughly mortified Rachel kneeling on the seat next to her husband and facing backwards with her recently spanked behind jutting forward.

“Oh I’ll never live this down,” she wailed.

But through it all she felt as warm as the afternoon sun inside and could not help offering an embarrassed smile to everyone they passed as they rolled out of town.

It was facing backwards that afforded Rachel a view back at the town she thought she had left behind forever, she could clearly see the yellow wooden sign at the town limits burning gold in the rays of the setting sun and the town’s name in clear, clean letters, ‘Atonement.’

The end.



10 Responses to “Atonement”

  1. 1 bahamagirl1996

    That was a great story

  2. 2 paul1510

    Damian,
    now that is the sort of time travel I enjoy, great story, thanks. 😀
    Paul.

  3. Great piece ! I enjoyed it.

  4. My husband bought me a Mason Pearson when I got my university degree. I can verify that it is very convincing 😉

  5. 5 DJ

    A little something for the mid week glad you liked it.

    I doubt in reality that MP hairbrushes made it to small western towns at this time – although they had been in production for around a decade so it is possible. Maybe via a Sears catalogue. 😉

  6. 6 Mark

    DJ — If it helps in a future story, you can feel free to put some extraordinary things in one of those small Western town general stores. The proprietors shopped either by catalog or by a buying trip to a major city. In either case, they made an effort to include some special things to catch the eye of some of regulars. It was a way to keep them coming in, to draw browsing, and a way to sell more volume than just the staples of a small store. It was a point of pride to the store owner. And if there was any competition, it was that too. A proprietor paging through his choice catalogs, or going to fancy stores for something nice from the big city, might have come back with the nicest possible hairbrush, or any number of other fun things, and would know his customers’ tastes, too. Also, “drummers” came through with cases of interesting things to sell to shopkeepers, so anything special a drummer might have come through town with in his cases might show up in one of those stores. Let your imagination run.

  7. 8 Richard

    Glad to read Clemintine again Atonement was excellent to the end


  1. 1 chross.blogt.ch

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