Close this window [X]

The Suffragettes

by Maren Smith

The tall, beautiful blonde woman paced the sitting room floor, her long skirts kicking out before her as she circled from one end of the leaf-green and mahogany-wood settee to the other, then back again. She had made so many passes across the rug beneath her that it was a wonder there wasn't a path worn right down the middle of those blue and gold threads. She shook her head, looked at the considerably shorter red-head primly seated a short distance away, and shook her head again. "He's going to kill me, Sadie. There's no help for it. If I don't leave the country, I'll never survive the night."

Sadie blinked twice, brushing back a carrot red curl that had fallen across her eyes. "Oh, how will he know? So what if Mayor Pratt does tattle on us, Alice, it's our word against his. Jeremy wouldn't take his side over ours, surely. So long as we don't do something silly, like confess, he'll never even know it was us."

"He will too know," Alice said, worriedly wringing her slender hands. "He poked his head out the window and looked right at me."

"He was there? Are you sure? I didn't see him."

"By the time he saw me, you'd already dived head first into the coach."

"You bet I did. You threw a brick through the mayor's front parlor window!"

"My passions ran away with me!"

"I'm sure your husband is, by now, well aware of your passions. He's bound to understand." Hands folded in her lap, Sadie watched her friend make two more passes. "You know, I don't think I've ever seen you this rattled before. Come on, this is Jeremy we're talking about. I wish you would sit down."

"Yes," Alice said mournfully. "While I still can."

Sadie quirked an eyebrow at the odd comment. "What on earth does that mean?"

Alice bit her lower lip, but was saved from answering when, from outside the open window, they heard the tell-tale sounds of a carriage pulling up to the front steps. Both girls looked over their shoulders, gazing past the fluttering lace curtains, listening. Downstairs, the front door open, then closed again.

Alice turned slowly, wringing her hands as she faced the sitting room door. Her breaths came in sharp, quick pants. Already tears were flooding her wide blue eyes. "Oh my goodness..." was all she said as the steady sound of footsteps tromped rhythmically up the stairs and down the outer hallway towards them. The door latch turned.

"Oh my goodness," Alice said again, practically whimpering.

Sadie glanced at her curiously, but then the door was open and Jeremy stepped inside, all six feet of him the angriest she had seen in the four years that they had all been friends. His scowl as black as his hair, he glared first at Sadie and then Alice, who looked as if she would either bolt for her adjoined bedchambers or faint dead away. Glancing from man to wife, Sadie began to wonder if her best friend's fears weren't well founded.

"I-It was an accident," Alice whimpered. "M-my passions ran away with me."

Jeremy closed the door. Was it Sadie's imagination or was there a note of finality in the click of the turning lock?

The big man crossed the room slowly. The look he gave her, as he rounded the corner of the settee, was dark enough to freeze her mid-breath. This was not a side of Jeremy that Sadie was accustomed to seeing. One of the most prominent lawyers in all of New York, not to mention a member in fine standing with the New York City council, Jeremy was usually a cheerful, smiling, good-humored man, quick with a joke and an infectious booming laugh. The current polls had him earmarked as the next election's new state governor. Why, even Sadie's father, a staunch supporter of the republican party intended to vote for Jeremy, and that said quite a lot considering that the two men argued constantly over differing views on taxes, trade unionism, and political reform.

But this--his expression as dark as his hair and eyes--this Jeremy was almost like a stranger. Sadie stood up. "I-I should probably just go."

"Sit down," Jeremy told her flatly. His black eyes burrowed into hers, and Sadie found herself sinking slowly back into her chair. "Which of you threw that brick?"

Trembling, Alice meekly raised her hand.

Jeremy nodded, no change in his dark expression. "As I thought. You might like to know, I brought the brick home with me. I've already replaced it back in our walkway, where it was so obviously removed from, no doubt in preparation for that moment when your passions would ërun away with you.' So answer me this, which of you carried the brick to the protest rally?"

Again, Alice raised her hand.

And again Jeremy nodded. His mouth tightened, becoming a hard and angry line. He looked pointedly at Sadie. "At what point did you become aware of her intentions to destroy the mayor's parlor window?"

"When she pried the brick up from the walkway," Sadie admitted softly, blushing uncomfortably under his hard gaze.

"And you did nothing to stop her." He said it flatly, no accusation in his tone, just a blunt declaration of the truth as he saw it.

"She tried to talk me out of it, Jeremy." Alice cringed when his black gaze slid back to her. "She truly did try."

"You obviously listened to her with the same deaf ear you gave me last night. Do you remember my telling you that you were under no circumstances to attend that rally today." Jeremy took a deep breath, seeming to grow even larger as he fixed his wife with the sternest of looks. "Well, talking doesn't seem to work, but we do know one method that does, don't we, Alice?"

The tall blonde woman bit her bottom lip, her shoulders shaking as two fat tears rolled down her pale cheeks. She didn't answer.

Sadie opened her mouth, but whatever protest she was about to utter, died with a squeak when Jeremy once again fixed her with his dark, ominous glare.

"I am disappointed in you, Sadie O'Brien," he said somberly. "I value our friendship. What's more, I valued the level-headed and practical influence I thought you'd had on Alice these last few years. But this morning has shown me that it's Alice who is influencing you. And not for the better, either. I would not count myself as much of a friend, if I did not make the attempt to bring you back to rights."

Sadie fidgeted, glancing uncertainly at Alice, who had covered her face with her hands and was softly crying into them.

"What will your father do when I tell him of this?"

"My father?" Startled, Sadie faced him again. She hadn't considered the possibility of her father ever finding out about the brick or the mayor's window, and certainly not about Sadie's involvement in the two items becoming abruptly acquainted. She fidgeted with her fingers. "He--he will be very cross and--and most likely will scold me. He might not allow me to attend the Umberland's party next Friday. I really don't know. You--you aren't going to tell him, are you?"

A brief flash of what almost looked like scorn crossed Jeremy's face, twisting one corner of his mouth, but then abruptly vanished. "Not in light of that admission, no. I think it more appropriate that I take care of this my way."

Alice cried even harder. "No, Jeremy! Please, not Sadie! She didn't know--"

"But that's just it," Jeremy interrupted angrily. "Sadie did know. She knew exactly what you were about. She walked with you all the way to the rally, and then stood right beside you while you hurled a brick--a brick, Alice!--through the mayor's window, spraying him, his wife, the Reverend Donovan and his wife, not to mention myself, with shards of glass. The two of you are very fortunate that no one was seriously injured!"

"We'll pay for the window," Sadie offered.

"Yes, you will," Jeremy agreed. "But not out of your allowances or the way you think. Alice knows the price for this kind of disobedience. Perhaps I don't have a right to discipline you, Sadie, but you were just as involved in this malicious deed and I intend to see to it that you are properly repentant for your part."

He glared at Alice, who swallowed hard. Tears streaked her face and she trembled notably, her hands clasped tightly over her stomach as though she were struggling to hold herself together. "The only difference between you two, Sadie, is that you have no basis for understanding the consequences of your behavior. So you are going to remain there in your chair and watch what happens to naughty young ladies who think that, because they are with friends, they are above proper behavior."

Seating himself in the center of the settee, Jeremy sternly indicated a point on the floor in front of him. He glared at Alice. "Come here."

Alice's pale face quickly flushed. She glanced at Sadie and for a brief moment she did not move. "Please, Jeremy. Not in front of Sadie."

Her husband remained inflexible. "Little girl, if I have to come and get you, it's going to be that much worse."

Alice tucked her hands behind her bustle-covered bottom, and Sadie suddenly felt the most horrible sinking sensation in her stomach. With one small step and then other, she watched as her best friend meekly made her way to her husband's side. With each step, she seemed to grow smaller and her trembling became that much more pronounced.

His eyes locked with Alice's, Jeremy said, "Sadie, go to Alice's bedroom and bring me the hairbrush located not on top of her vanity table, but inside the upper right hand drawer."

Alice started, wailing, "No!"

"Yes," Jeremy calmly countered. "Do it now."

Trembling a little herself, Sadie stood uncertainly. "What are you going to do?"

"Do as I tell you, my girl."

On shaky knees, Sadie went to Alice's bedroom. She found the hairbrush exactly where he told her, bristle side up inside the vanity drawer. The brush was a good eight to ten inches in length, with the handle and head made of wood. It was light weight, but solid. The bristles were white and pristine. Unlike the silver brush that rested on top of the table, surrounded by cosmetics and a shallow dish of jewelry, this wooden one had obviously never been used to actually brush hair.

She turned it over in her hands, then caught a glimpse of her reflection in the vanity's mirror. She looked as frightened and as unnerved as poor Alice. There was no doubt in her mind that her friend was about to be spanked by her very angry husband. Even worse, if he meant what he'd implied, then it would be Sadie's turn for a dose of the same medicine. And here she was, a Judas to the cause which had Alice throwing bricks in the first place, about to bring Jeremy the implement he had every intention of punishing them with.

Sadie shivered, turning the brush over in her hands, not at all sure what to expect but almost certain that she really didn't want to find out. It wasn't that she had never been spanked before, because she had. Once, long ago. She had been six or seven at the time and, of the actual experience, Sadie remembered very little. Mostly what she remembered was running through an veritable ocean of unfamiliar and busy adults and crying so hard that she could barely breathe. For the life of her, she couldn't even remember the face of the policeman who'd found her, though his large, strong hand had held onto hers as they walked up and down the crowded streets for what felt like hours. And then she remembered being engulfed in her father's massive arms in a brief but bear-like hug, before he abruptly dropped to one knee, bared her bottom, and paddled her with a hard and angry hand for wandering away in the first place.

Feeling more like a traitor than a friend, Sadie turned from the mirror and walked back to the sitting room.

The scene had not changed any. Alice was still crying, still pleading with a strangely somber Jeremy, though she might as well have pleaded with a stone wall for all the good it was doing. He held out his hand, and Sadie reluctantly lay the handle of the hairbrush into it. She sat on the chair he indicated across from the settee.

Alice visibly cringed when he set the brush down next to his leg, then reached for her. Pulling her to stand at his right, without preamble, he took her wrist with one hand and her arm with his other, and brought her quickly down across his lap.

Though a tall woman, sprawling across her husband's knees made Alice look more like a child. Her cheeks flushed bright pink as he raised her skirts and petticoats, fulling exposing a round, soft bottom clad only in her flimsy white drawers. Sadie almost looked away, her friend's embarrassment painfully obvious, but Jeremy chose that moment to again lock his black eyes with hers.

"In a moment," he told her, "you are going to find yourself in this exact same position, and I will be no more gentle with you than I intend to be with Alice. But if you move from that spot and I am forced to chase you down, young lady, I promise I'll deal with you a good deal more harshly. Am I clear?"

"Yes, Jeremy." She could barely force the words from her tight throat. When his large hand came to rest across Alice's upturned drawers, positioned so defenselessly over his thighs, Sadie's own bottom tingled with dread and she clutched the arms of her chair. Poor Alice only whimpered, clinging to the settee cushions, her feet waving helplessly an inch or two above the floor.

"What you did," Jeremy said, "was childish and irresponsible. I know the mayor made you angry when he said women lacked the common sense to make an intelligent decision regarding the electoral vote. However, your actions today have only proved him right. You have not aided the Woman's Movement; you have forced it a giant step backwards.

"And not merely that, my dear, but you acted with malicious intent. Your brick sailed right between the mayor and his innocent wife. A few inches either way and you might have hit one of them. We were all of us struck by the glass, but the reverend and his wife were facing the window and got the worst of it. Elsbeth now has a cut upon her cheek so deep that she will likely wear a scar because of it. Your actions today show you hold absolutely no regard for the safety of others. I love you dearly, Alice, but you have made me ashamed."

During the lecture, Alice had dissolved into tears again. She now lay upon his lap, sobbing into the settee cushions. "I am sorry, Jeremy. I didn't know he would be entertaining company! I didn't know anyone would be in there this time of day!"

"That is no excuse." He raised his hand and brought it down hard on her right bottom cheek.

Sadie jumped with Alice. She didn't realize she was holding her breath until she heard the second loud smack and Alice's sudden gasp.

"Oh, no! Please not so hard, Jeremy! I'm sorry!"

Sadie clutched her hands in her lap, wishing desperately that she was someplace, anyplace else. She flinched at the force with which Jeremy spanked his wife, helpless to do anything but sit and listen while her friend whimpered, then groaned, then cried out in pain, and to watch as Alice's bottom bounced and juddered under the vigorous walloping of his open palm.

"Ow! Oh, please! Jeremy, please, I'm sorry!"

Smack! Smack! Smack!

Jeremy fell into a strong, fast rhythm. The strokes fell too fast to count, and Sadie didn't even try. But it couldn't have been more than twenty before Alice really began to writhe and beg, her soft voice rising over the sharp report of his hand striking near bare flesh.

"Oh! Please, stop! Ouch! Please!"

But he didn't stop. He didn't even slow his pace. And it wasn't long before a red blush could be seen right through Alice's bloomers and the soft writhing had turned into frantic kicks as she rolled her hips from side to side to escape his punishing hand. Her pleas had escalated into loud and lusty cries. Sadie's own eyes burned with unshed tears. She couldn't bear to watch this, but neither could she look away. Not when she herself would soon be suffering the same fate.

Suddenly, Jeremy stopped. It was a respite that lasted no longer than the length of time required to unfasten Alice's pantalette's and tug them down over her scarlet bottom. Rather than over, Sadie realized, things were about to get a whole lot worse. When Jeremy picked up the waiting hairbrush, a jolt of panic had Sadie jumping to her feet.

"Sit down!" he commanded over Alice's sobs and frantic promises of good behavior.

Sadie burst into tears. "I can't! I can't do this!"

"Sadie, sit your bottom back down on that chair. Right now." He spoke quietly this time, his dark eyes locked on hers, unwavering, uncompromising, determined. "Don't make this any worse, little girl. I don't want to have to spank you harder than what you've already got coming."

Alice was still crying, her pert buttocks and the tops of her thighs a dark shade of red. Here and there around the flushed edges Sadie could see the blushing imprint of his fingers against her skin. Sadie shuddered, her eyes pleading with Jeremy, but he didn't even blink. Slowly, she sat back down.

And Jeremy laid the hairbrush against the top of Alice's thigh. "Why are you getting this spanking?"

Alice sobbed, shaking her head, her long blonde hair hiding her face. "Be-because I w-was reckless and immature and I could have hurt someone."

His arm rose and Alice wailed even before the hairbrush had come sharply down again. Shrieking and sobbing, she clenched her bottom cheeks and her right hand snapped back to ward off further abuse. Jeremy merely pinned her wrist behind her and the hairbrush continued to rise and fall as he spanked her even harder. Within a minute, his wife lay limp across his thighs, sobbing piteously, her pale skin a hot cherry red from hips to mid-thigh. Unable to do anything but watch, Sadie felt her own bottom cringing. Though Jeremy had not laid one stroke on her, she was crying almost as hard as Alice. She didn't know how her poor friend could take such horrific abuse--she couldn't take it, and she was merely a spectator!

Finally, the last hard smack bounced off Alice's sore rear and everything was silent but for her weeping.

"Up," Jeremy ordered.

Alice slowly pushed herself upright and stood not five feet in front of Sadie. She reached back to soothe her burning flanks with tender hands, and Sadie caught a glimpse of her face as she glanced over one shoulder to survey the damage done her. Everything looked red--her face, her eyes, her bottom.

And it wasn't over yet.

"Corner," Jeremy told her. "I want that dress up and your naughty bottom on display until I've done with Sadie."

Head down, too embarrassed to even meet her friend's wide and worried eyes, Alice shuffled to the wall and obediently raised her skirts and petticoats. With both hands, she held the folds high up around her waist and leaned forward until her nose pressed the corner.

It was Sadie's turn now. Her breath quickened. Panic bubbled and welled inside her.

"Sadie," Jeremy gently called, and she slowly turned to look at him. He gestured to a spot on the floor to the right of him. "Come here, young lady."

Jeremy. It was only Jeremy. Her best friend's husband. A man who had been her friend for almost four years. But knowing this didn't change the fact that, when she stood, her legs felt as sturdy as rubber. In the handful of steps that carried her to his side, her knees nearly buckled twice.

He took her hand in his, gazing sternly up into her blue eyes. "Sadie, you are a woman of strength and intelligence. Why you allow Alice to pull you into her childish shenanigans, I can't begin to guess. But I do know that you know right from wrong, and what you did today doesn't even sit on the line that divides the two. Sooner or later we all must pay the consequences for the wrong that we do."

He took a firm hold of her wrist with his left hand and her arm with his right.

"No!" Sadie began to cry, hardly believing what was happening to her, and pulled frantically at her imprisoned arm.

Jeremy drew her down across his hard thighs with no more difficulty than if she had been a reluctant child.

"Please, don't!" Sadie barely saw the settee cushions through the tears that flooded her eyes. But it wasn't until she felt him raise her skirts and petticoats that she began to fight him. Her hand snapped back and she grabbed her petticoats, trying to force them back down over her bottom again.

With a viselike grip, he caught her wrist and his heavy arm settled across her back to hold her firmly in place. As his free hand came to rest on the thin surface of her bloomers, the most incredulous thought occurred to her--thank goodness she was wearing her good pair, thin and thread-bare, but at least without holes.

"I value your friendship, Sadie," Jeremy said. "I could not love you more if you were my own sister, but your behavior today has shamed me. You may not have thrown the brick, but you are just as responsible because you could have prevented it. You chose not to, and I need for you to understand just how wrong that decision was."

His hand disappeared from her backside.

Sadie cringed, but neither the half-forgotten memory of a single childhood spanking, nor the ordeal of watching Alice suffer through hers, could have prepared Sadie for the sudden impact of Jeremy's broad hand. It flattened her bottom with devastating force.

"Oh!" she cried out, her eyes widening with shock. "Oh, that hurt!"

His palm caught her again, then again, and by the fourth smack, he had covered the entire surface of her plump bottom. Jeremy didn't stop there, either. Instead, he seemed to divide her rump into quarters and his hand attacked each section in turn--top, top, bottom, bottom, back and forth, over and over and over again until the sting became a throb, the throb an ache, and the ache turned all too quickly into out and out pain.

For Sadie there was no such thing as bravery or stoicism under discipline. She was screaming, kicking, bucking, and crying before he'd even completed his third set of four.

"Stop!" she begged. "Please, please stop!"

And still he spanked her, top, top, bottom, bottom, no matter how she fought to break his hold and get away. Her toes scrambled against the floor; just when she'd kicked off her shoes she didn't know.

Top, top.

She sobbed, "Stop! It HURTS!"

Bottom, bottom.

"No! Please, Jeremy! I can't take this!"

When she tried to twist away, to roll off his lap and onto the floor, Jeremy simply scissored her legs between his own and continued on. Now she could not wiggle so much as an inch in any direction, and Sadie wailed her distress into settee cushions that were thoroughly soaked by both her and Alice's tears.

Top, top, bottom, bottom.

"Jeremy, sto-op!" Sadie's sobs distorted her words, making them all but unintelligible. "Stop, stop!"

And miraculously he did, his hand coming to rest lightly on top of her upthrust bottom cheeks.

Sadie wept with relief, shoulders shaking, hardly able to catch her breath. How could any hand hurt that much? She half-groaned, half-sobbed. She hoped she never saw another brick or window again, ever. She raised her head, trying hard to pull herself back under control, when she felt him loosen his hold on her legs. A brush of cool air touched her tender flesh. It was several seconds before Sadie realized it was because Jeremy had just taken down her drawers. She suddenly remembered the hairbrush.

She was only halfway through.

Jeremy wrapped his arm back around her waist, clamping her legs between his own again as Sadie struggled desperately to get back off his lap. Across the room she heard Alice in the corner, weeping out of sympathy. When Jeremy picked up the hairbrush, Sadie didn't wait for the first slap to fall. Already she was begging and weeping for him to stop.

SMACK!

"Ha-ow!" Sadie jerked almost straight up, her mouth falling open in a shout of sheer pain. "Oh, no!"

He lay another equally hard to the left side, beginning that familiar cadence of four that only grew harder and faster with every set, reducing Sadie from incoherent pleas to frantic shrieks to hopeless bawling within the first minute. Twelve, sixteen, twenty strokes cracked up and down her flanks and thighs, the brush inflicting bright oval marks that deepened the already wounded hue of her skin until she looked almost bruised. Until it stopped. No grand finale. No last minute harder than normal whacks. It just ended.

Jeremy freed her legs first, then her hands. He helped her up, tucking her into the crook of his arm and letting her cry against his shoulder, clutching his neck with one hand and her sizzling bottom with the other. He called, "Alice, come here."

Hiccuping, her cheeks still streaked with tears, Alice all but flew to his side. He kissed her forehead, then Sadie's, holding them both until the weeping had eased into soft gasps and sporadic sniffles.

"I don't ever want to have to do this again," he said.

Both ladies shook their heads.

"Tomorrow, you will apologize to the mayor and his wife and offer to replace their parlor window."

They sniffled and hiccupped and nodded again.

"You will also apologize to Reverend Donovan and Elsbeth, and each of you will volunteer an hour of your time every week for the next two months, to a charity of their choosing. You owe them that at the very least for the discomforts they have suffered today."

"I am sorry, Jeremy," Alice said against his shoulder. "I never would have done it if I'd thought someone might get hurt. I wasn't thinking."

"That doesn't surprise me," he said, smiling when she slapped at his chest. He kissed her forehead again to show there were no hard feelings.

"Do I really have to apologize to that blustering windbag Pratt? Can't I just be quietly sorry, without having to admit it?"

"Does the hairbrush need to accompany us while you make your apologies tomorrow?"

Alice shuddered. "No, Jeremy."

"If I have to, I will paddle the sincerity into you."

She sighed. "You won't have to, I promise." She was quiet a moment, then lifted her head and peered over at Sadie. "I think she's asleep."

"Let her. She kicked and fussed so much, I don't blame her for being worn out."

This time when he lowered his head to kiss her, Alice rose up to meet him halfway. She winced as she shifted on the settee, then settled gingerly back into his embrace. Tomorrow she would have to apologize to New York's biggest male chauvinist, but for tonight her husband's arms were warm and strong, and he had forgiven her.

Smiling, Alice sighed. "I love you, Jeremy Bervis."

"And I you." And he pulled her even closer.

 

Close this window [X]