Saturday, February 13, 2010

Deep Impact - Ending 2

Damien, please…………….."
That got me swatted. He'd talk this patiently through with me until Kingdom Come without ever objecting to my not agreeing with him, I knew that, but he was not going to put up with opting out of the conversation. Which meant basically he was giving me no way out at all.
"I DID cause it."
"You are not responsible for other people's actions." Damien repeated again. I
"I DID cause it."
"You are not responsible for other people's actions." Damien repeated again. I took a deep breath, trying to think of some - any - way out of this conversation.
"Look, can't we just agree to differ? I don't agree! I feel like I caused that crash, I feel responsible for it, that just IS the way I feel!"
That earned me two very sound swats right at my thighs, bringing the tears that were threatening down my face. I bit back on my retort to the inhumane way Damien was trying to get his point across.
"You are not responsible for other people's actions." Damien said again, in that same quiet tone. "You're not, Nicky. You've got to justify that to me if you want to believe it."
I pressed up on the bed and tried to turn around but got no leverage.
"If I hadn't been in the front of the line making EVERYONE stop so quickly, they wouldn't have crashed!"
"When you drive you watch the road in front of you and react accordingly." Damien's hand didn't move on my back, nor the other, warm and heavy on my thigh. "It's then up to them to control their car accordingly- you startled people but you were in no danger of making them crash. That girl- and the man that caused the shunts- were going too fast and not paying attention."
I sank back down on the duvet, painfully aware of how exposed I was and hating every minute. I didn't know what Damien expected me to do. I caused the accident - the lady was in tears and her dog could have been smashed flat and I was at the front of the line of cars. It was clear to me, why not him? I was in the middle of one of the longest and most hideous spankings in my life and I couldn't figure out how to make it end. The muscles in my stomach hadn't had such a workout in years and every movement Damien made kept them working out.
"Nicky." Damien said above me.
He didn't sound in the least impatient; more sympathetic, but I knew what he wanted. An answer. For me to talk this through, and to open my mind, and a lot of other things that were way too hard in this position, and all with his damned hand hovering right behind me offering encouragement in a way I really did NOT want.
I didn't lie - not exactly. I repeated what he said to me because that's what he wanted to hear. And maybe if I said it enough times it would become true. I relaxed for just a moment, giving in.
"I didn't cause the accident."
"You really didn't." Damien agreed. "You're not responsible for the choices other drivers make. Your actions didn't directly threaten them."
My apology barely made it out around the lump of tears stuck deep in my throat. Damien's hand rubbed my back, not answering for a moment and letting me get my breath. I half expected him to say flat out, "Nicholas don't lie to me." But that never came. Instead I got a gentle lecture about duel carriageways in general and the A508 in particular, which wasn't any more welcome. I caught the end of his reminder to practice better driving habits before the warm and soothing hand lifted from it's safe place on my thigh and landed extremely hard a few inches north. Much harder than I thought was necessary, even though I still fully believed that it should have been the cane, and not his hand, falling repeatedly across my backside.
Why he didn't think that was necessary I had no idea, I never did get him. Things I thought were minor he made a four act drama out of and things that WERE a big deal, like causing a pile up and nearly killing someone made him come over all patient and tolerant. Except right now my backside wasn't appreciating his tolerance too much. I was already close enough to tears that a few started running fairly quickly, and I couldn't help the squirming and yelping that was going on.
Damien didn't stop when I thought it was plain things were getting through. He didn't even stop when I thought it was fairly certain that driving across verges was something I'd never do again as long as I lived. I was sobbing fairly incoherently when his hand finally stopped falling and began the long, slow circles that meant the worst was over.
It took longer to calm down than usual, I don't know why. Between the desperate desire to get up out of this horrible position, for Damien to stop being upset with me because I seriously needed to be held right now and how totally rotten I felt about this whole situation, I couldn't stop crying. Eventually Damien lowered me gently down to my knees and the blood rushed back from my head.
"No one was hurt," Damien said above me.
No one but me at the moment. Although it really COULD have been worse. The dog alone was going to give me nightmares as he was the most innocent of the victims. I buried my head against Damien's side for a few minutes before I could catch my breath.

Damien stroked my hair, letting me take my time. Finally I pulled myself to my feet and he helped me sort out my clothes before he turned me around and gave me a long, tight hug.
"We're done. It's over with, it's finished. Go get yourself into your pyjamas darling, I'll make some tea and we'll crash out up here."
I walked into the bathroom as he headed downstairs and caught sight of my face in the mirror. Stark white with red splotches, tearstained and with eyes that looked like I'd been on a three day binge. Ha. It wasn't as if I ever binged on anything more exciting than Ovaltine anyway. Damien was married to a wimp as well as a liar. I bent over the sink and did the best I could to clean up the mess even with a few tears still falling. I yanked off my cords and shorts without thinking and braced for the inevitable re-ignition of the pain. When nothing happened I turned to look, surprised to find my bottom a hot pink, rather than the solid red it can sometimes get. It was definitely not comfortable, but I couldn't imagine that there would be anything left in the morning to worry about.
I was faintly surprised. It had been an awful spanking- and I'd fully expected it to be awful, I'd thoroughly deserved it. I felt drained and completely miserable, and yet I wasn't really anything more than a little sore. I prodded the area experimentally.
"Nick." Damien called from the top of the stairs. I could hear tea cups clinking. I pulled pyjamas on and trailed after him into the bedroom.
Damien turned the video on to Pride and Prejudice, something we both loved and wouldn't take a lot of concentration. It was a little after nine and I knew I'd be out before ten feeling as drained as I did. Damien pulled me to him and I leaned against his side sipping tea. His hand ran up my back and tangled in my hair, combing it out strand by strand with his fingers.
Not an easy question. Actually now it was over I was starting to feel..........
Unworthy I suppose is the word. There is a certain format or script we follow. It's not written down, nor is it something we have to follow, but it's there and we live by it. It starts out with me in trouble. Damien shows me where I went wrong, and I usually always agree. There have been a few times where his true meaning escapes me for a long time, but I'm not THAT thick-headed and I usually work it out in the end. Today was different. The part in the script that says I Agree With Damien was me. I didn't mean to. I really wanted to believe Damien: that I had nothing to do with the accident itself. But I did and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why Damien couldn't see it. He's a lovely man - to put it mildly - and he was probably just being kind this time, but it wasn't making me feel any better. I didn't like him being wrong. Apart from the fact it was out of character, he was mine and I didn't like anything that made me feel.... doubtful. Unworthy. I kept coming back to that one horrible word.
"I suppose so." I said, leaning against Damien's shoulder. I could feel him looking down at me.
"That didn't sound very sure."
"It's never nice to pass by an accident when you're going somewhere, but it's even less fun to hear and see it actually happen."
"Don't think about it darling. No one was hurt, it's done and it's over, don't fret about it."
I nodded, sliding down further into the covers. Thankfully Damien went back to the television, his hand heavy on my shoulder. I fell asleep feeling far worse than if I had been caned. At least that would have been quickly over with.
I heard Damien moving around the room some time later - it was dark and the tv clicked as he turned it off. I got my eyes open and found him, a shape in the gloom heading back to bed. I would have curled up and gone back to sleep but he shook me gently.
"Nicky. You're wheezing."
"I'll be okay," I said positively, trying to calm my breathing down.
That never, ever works.
He leaned past me to snap on the light and I reflected somewhat grimly on how little he believes of what I say. Then I remembered with an unpleasant jolt, that he was justified. I wasn't currently being that honest with him. I turned over, feeling seriously awful, and it had nothing to do with a chest that sounded like a rusty radiator.
"I want to go back to sleep."
"You can, as soon as you use the nebuliser. Otherwise you're going to keep both of us awake," Damien said calmly, dragging out the equipment necessary to keep me breathing like a normal human being.
"Do a peak flow please."
"It's eleven o'clock at night." I said grimly.
Damien put the peak flow monitor into my hand and waited pointedly.
Ok, the results weren't good. I ended up slumped grumpily back against a heap of pillows while I breathed green fog through the mask and Damien watched me with a 'what's going on with you?' expression.
I knew as soon as I took the mask off there'd be a question of why. Trying to come up with something believable was the hard part and made me feel worse than the original lie. But what else could anyone expect of Nick Hayes, National Disaster Area? The National Trust would probably take me on eventually as a British Landmark…. It was just getting proven time and again that I wasn't worthy. Of anything much. Certainly not of him.

I kept breathing after the mist stopped, playing for more time, but Damien snapped the machine off and took the mask from me. And here it came. Quizzical hazel eyes and a look I didn't want to have to meet.
"You want to tell me what you're worrying about?"
"I told you earlier, it wasn't a nice day!" I said, trying to put the pillows back into some semblance of normalcy to sleep on.
"What part of it are you worrying over?" Damien said firmly, not moving an inch.
"I'm trying NOT to! I didn't do anything. I...DIDN'T....DO....ANYTHING," I said firmly, hoping I'd believe it as much as I wanted him to.
Damien raised an eyebrow at me. It wasn't helpful: I knew that look.
"I didn't." I repeated again, sliding back under the covers. Damien put a hand down, blocking me from rolling over.
"I've been telling you that myself. I want to know what you're fretting about that's making you wheeze."
Reaching for straws I picked the dog. "I was just dreaming about the dog getting hit."
Damien's eyes didn't move off mine for what felt like a long time.
"If that isn't all of it, I want to know, now," Damien said ominously.
And I was lying to him again. This was great. Like the Red Queen, maybe I could make him believe as many as ten impossible (or simply untruthful) things before breakfast. I hesitated for a second, wondering whether it was worth buckling and telling him. Yes I lied to you earlier. Yes I'm lying to you now. Yes I just wanted the spanking over and done with because I hated it and I'd have done anything to make it stop. Anything to make it easier on myself because I'm a WIMP. And a screw up.
But we were going to come back to the same ground as before. He didn't believe I was responsible. I did. And since it was my fault, then I needed to buck up and shoulder the blame myself. Steeling myself and not knowing how I pulled it off, I looked him square in the eye and said, "That's all."
Nicholas Hayes you are a wimp AND a bastard.
Damien held my gaze for a minute longer, then his eyes softened and he touched my cheek. "Want a drink or can you go back to sleep?"
"I should be able to go back to sleep," I said, feeling smaller by the second and in great danger of bursting into tears if the light didn't get turned out quickly. I breathed with relief when Damien went around to his side of the bed and snapped the light off before getting back under the duvet. His arm reached over my waist and pulled me back against him and I felt him drop a kiss on the back of my neck.
"It's ok darling. Everything's fine, everyone is fine. Go to sleep."
They're fine, you're fine, everyone but me. I nodded against him and waited patiently for the deep sound of his breathing to signal sleep. It was long after that when I managed to drop off.
Saturdays are usually busy for us. Damien sweeps through the house like a hurricane on a housework mission; if I don't find a good reason he washes and hoovers out both cars and then starts on the garden; we usually go shopping at some point and anything else we happen to feel like doing. It usually one of my favourite parts of the week. This Saturday I woke to hear Damien singing in the shower, and it hit me. This wasn't going to be so great a day. I put an experimental hand back under the quilt and rubbed my backside. It wasn't even sore. I'd expected to wake up this morning with at least six lines still marked across and throbbing, which would have stayed with me all day. Yesterday that was what I'd been dreading. Now, arguably, it would have been better than the way I felt now.
On just about every previous occasion I'd been spanked or otherwise punished, it WAS over with once we'd had The Conversation. Today was going to be different.
Damien appeared in a towel and nothing else, dripping and horribly cheerful. I'm usually the morning person in the family, it wasn't often he was up before me.
"Good morning." he said when he saw me. "I thought I'd let you have your sleep out, you were wheezing a lot all night. How are you feeling this morning?"
"Better," I said, and meaning it about the asthma. "I'll get some tea started,"
Anastasia mewed at me downstairs, since apparently it didn't count if Damien fed her. I topped up her biscuit bowl, made tea and absently started to make toast. Damien appeared a few minutes later, dressed and damp haired, snapped the radio on and began to set the table.
"Is there anything you need to do today? I wouldn't mind going over to the retail park and looking at washing machines. I'd rather we planned on replacing that monster before it completely dies on us."
"You go." I said, buttering toast. "I'll get the house clean, it's my turn."
"Are you sure?" Damien asked quizzically as he got a couple of plates down. "You usually like the retail park. We can tackle the cleaning together later."
"No, I'll do it. I don't get washing machines anyway." I put the toast down in front of him and sat down with a cup of tea.
Damien settled at the table with a grapefruit along with his toast, giving my isolated cup a pointed look. "Where's your toast?"
"I'll have something in a minute, I can still taste the nebuliser from last night." I said vaguely. "If you're going out we could do with more milk, and Anastasia's low on cat food."
"Were there any sales this weekend on food?"
I blinked, not really interested or caring. "I don't know. Whatever Tescos is doing on special offer I suppose. I'm going to have a quick shower."
I could feel Damien's eyes on my back as I headed out of the room. I needed some time away from him to deal with everything. Hopefully the shower would work until he was ready to head out, then the shopping would keep him busy for at least a couple of hours.
I hovered in the shower hoping I'd just hear the shout of goodbye, but I was getting pruned after twenty minutes and he still hadn't left. When I went downstairs, dressed, he had a jacket on but he was still in the kitchen, doing the last of the washing up.
"I'll finish that." I said, coming to take the tea towel.
"Did you think of anything else that we might need?" Damien asked as he handed it over.
I shook my head, drying mugs. "I think we're sorted, I picked up a lot on the way home on Thursday."
"Ok." Damien wrapped an arm around my waist and kissed my cheek. "Eat. I will check. I won't be long."
I mentally saluted as I waved the towel in his direction before turning to finish drying the dishes. I heard the door shut behind him, then the low rumble of his engine as he started the car. Then I dug the bucket of cleaning stuff out of the cupboard, headed upstairs and started scouring.
It dawned on me when I found myself sitting on the stairs, wiping down the skirting boards and banisters with polish, that this was a job I usually did on request - or rather order- when I was grounded and Damien was filling my free time with the chores. The tedious jobs we didn't ordinarily bother with.
If he came home and found me happily doing it without instruction, he'd smell a rat immediately - I'd be dead. Deader than dead. I put the cleaning stuff away and belatedly realised I hadn't eaten anything which didn't help in the dead forecast either.
Anastasia was thoroughly enjoying my being home but upset that I was ignoring her and winding around my ankles, demanding to be picked up. I scooped her up with one arm, looked at the cereal Damien had pointedly left out on the kitchen table, then put it away. A peer in the fridge didn't inspire me either. Finally I dug in the biscuit tin and pulled out a bourbon cream. At least I could say honestly that I'd eaten. The way this was going he was probably going to take to measuring my nose on a regular basis. I sat down at the kitchen table and rubbed Anastasia's ears, wondering why I was even bothering to try keeping up this pretence. He was going to find out. He always did in the end. This was just going to make it bigger and uglier and still more of a mess. And yet the thought of surrender....
Was no more attractive. I could handle this.
"I didn't do anything. I didn't do anything. I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING!" I ranted at Anastasia. Her facial expression made it clear she agreed, but all I could see was my guilt reflected back in her eyes. Damien always says she looks permanently guilty anyway.
I went into the living room to pull out the new Terry Prachett book I'd purchased but that made me think about the accident again. Instead, I chose an old favourite and went out to sit in the shade in the garden, trying to distract myself and make it look to Damien that everything was fine.
It was fine. We were fine. EVERYTHING was bloody fine.
I woke at two am on Monday morning with a mild asthma attack, and we were awake for an hour while I did the nebuliser and oxygen. Damien brought tea up and we lay in bed and watched a video while I wheezed gently until I fell asleep again. When I woke, he'd gone to work and a note was on the bedside table.
'Good morning. I thought you needed a sleep out, Beth knows. Unless the peak
flow and oxygen stats are good then you stay home today. I'll ring at lunchtime, don't
forget to do another nebuliser. Love you. D.'
Dr. Damien Bloody Mitchell is how it should have been signed. It was already nine and I'd wanted to get into work by eight. I showered and shaved as quick as I could and sat down to try the peak flow. It wasn't great, but it wasn't awful either. I gave the oxygen monitor a sideways look and left it there unused. Downstairs I grabbed a piece of toast and phoned the office. Beth answered in a couple of rings and must have seen the phone ID on the screen.
"Hey sweetie! How are you feeling? Damien said you had a rough night."
"It wasn't bad." I said as cheerfully as I could. "Just woke up wheezing and it took a bit to fall asleep. He just turned the alarm off, sorry about that."
"I'm glad you're doing better." Beth said warmly. "Are you working from home today?"
I debated that for a moment. Driving wasn't really something I should be doing, but Damien hadn't give me a choice in the matter. Usually when I'm grounded I can drive so long as it's just to and from work.
"No, there's no need. I was just calling to let you know I'd be there soon."
"Ok hon." Beth paused, her tone changing a little. "Nick ? Are you ok? You sound a bit- stressed?"
"Just didn't expect to wake up late this morning, sorry," I said quickly, not wanting to give Beth anything more to worry about. Having an employee who couldn't even work a full week was bad enough.
"Ok, then we'll see you soon." Beth hung up, leaving me to grab a jacket and my keys and then look at the car. Strictly speaking I wasn't EXACTLY grounded.
I just damned well ought to have been.
Damien called at noon and I fielded the call remarkably well, I thought. I let him know that I'd start dinner as soon as I got home and hung up. It was nearing five and I was helping Beth clean up our workspace when she asked: "How did you like the show this weekend? What was the name of it?"
"Oh..." I looked up, trying to sound casual. "We didn't go. Busy."
Beth swept the last of the pencils off her desk and into the drawer, shutting it firmly on the chaos inside. "That's a shame, that sounded like fun. It'll continue for a couple of weeks, won't it?"
"I don't really know." I gathered up my briefcase and jacket. "I don't really feel much like seeing it."
Beth, bless her, didn't press further, nor remind me we'd talked about it last week and I'd been keen enough then. I headed quickly to my car, saying goodbye as I went. If she'd asked any further I might have had to confess that I never mentioned wanting to go to Damien, not after the accident. I drove home, aware that my breathing was getting slightly ragged and hoping I'd have time to fix that before Damien made it in.
Anastasia came running to meet me in the hall and sat with interest, watching while I sucked on a nebuliser. You'd think she'd be used to it by now. My stats were still just as grim when I'd finished. I headed downstairs, opened the freezer and dug out lamb chops, defrosting them with fixed determination. I was NOT wheezing. There would BE no wheezing. I could breathe, I could cook, this was ALL going to be fine. Damien could come home to a cooked meal, a calm and together partner who was NOT a total disaster area, it was ALL going to be FINE.
And I was, mostly, when I heard his key in the door. Gulping the last of the wine I had out and pouring two more, I met him at the doorway to the kitchen.
"Care for some wine?"
"You sound awful."
Having shot my 'fine' theory down in flames in three words, Damien paused, kissed me and gave me a quizzical look. "What have you taken so far?"
"Nebuliser." I said shortly. "I have lamb chops about to grill. Want peas or asparagus with that?"
"Nick." Damien said in a tone I knew. I stopped unwillingly. He was Looking at me.
"How long has this gone on for, WHEN did you take the nebuliser and what are your stats?"
"They're ok." I said gruffly. "I took them, it's fine, I'm just having that kind of day."
"Numbers." Damien said bluntly.
If I didn't tell him he'd just send me for the monitor and check them himself.
"230 and 95." I said unwillingly. Damien yanked his tie loose, took his jacket off and headed towards the stairs.
"Then we'll check them again. Sit down."
I waited until he was on his way upstairs before I stuck my tongue out at him and bad naturedly took a seat. I did, however, concentrate on trying to calm down my breathing so that when he returned changed and with the peak flow, I might be able to blow a respectable number.
He returned with the monitors, inhalers and my spacer and put them down in front of me, pulling out a chair. Apparently he was planning to sit and watch. He watched me do the oxygen sats first, checked the figures and then handed me the peak flow monitor. I puffed into it with all my strength, willing the dial towards 300.
"There." I said triumphantly. "That's better."
"Take the reliever again, you're still wheezy." Damien took the monitor back and waited while I huffed into the spacer.
"What are you wound up about?" he said bluntly while I had the mask on. Talk about a captive audience. I let go the last deep breath with a rush and put the spacer down.
"I didn't expect to have a short day today and I had a lot to do," I said, getting up to take the equipment back upstairs.
Damien put a hand over my wrist and pulled me back down. "Tell me what you did today?"
Another bloody inquisition. All he needed was the handcuffs, the Spanish accent and the hat. If he'd just let it go, everything would be ....fine. There was that bloody word again.
"We needed to finish the designs for that pub I told you about last week."
"And?" Damien said in a quiet tone that made me realise my voice had risen.
Trying to calm down while coming up with lie after lie is hard work.
"I just didn't want to be rushed, or to make Beth have to do it all on my behalf. And the stats were ok, so I went into work."
"So what are you so upset about?" Damien asked without letting go of my hand. It wasn't the casual question it sounded like. He was looking at me intently and the tone was ringing warning bells and making me tenser. He didn't know anything - he COULDN'T know anything, but I felt distinctly in trouble.
"I don't know what's causing my asthma to act up, and THAT is what's bothering me!" I said heatedly, unable to control my rising temper under such scrutiny.
"I know what makes it act up, and I know what makes you get this grumpy when I talk to you." Damien said grimly, getting up. "Leave that stuff on the table, you can go and have a look at that kitchen corner please."
"Dammmiieeeennnnnnnn…." I started, seriously fed up.
Damien looked at me with his mildly surprised expression.
On reflection, I decided the corner would be a little safer at the moment while I tried to come up with something that would get him off my back. Standing there five minutes later I was more than ready to leave it and I had yet to come up with anything even vaguely sound.
Damien took his jacket off, collected the newspaper, sat down at the table and began to read. That was NOT a good sign. If he cooks, I know there is a finite end approaching: the point will come where we sit down and eat. The fact he had not continued to cook was not reassuring. He was being mean. Really, seriously mean. I had nothing. I had worked on my problem for a long time before giving up, and yet, here I still was, looking at the paintwork. The rustling of the paper was usually a sound I connected with home - a feeling of security. At the moment, any sound of that paper rattling and I was ready to bite it. Or Damien.
"Do you feel like telling me what's worrying you yet?" Damien invited behind me.
"I don't think the paint is evenly distributed over here," I snapped, much to my surprise.

There was a moment's silence, which certainly didn't convey appreciation of my wit or sarcasm. Then the paper shook again and Damien carried on reading. I heard the paper turn once again, then a third time and I turned around, furious and not able to think beyond it.
"WHY can't you get that *I* caused the accident??!"
"We're not shouting about anything." Damien said, calmly but in a tone that meant I was on VERY thin ice and about to fall through it. "Turn around and be quiet."
I swallowed, trying to calm down enough so I wouldn't be yelling, but I was determined to make Damien see the light, no matter what it meant.
"That lady wouldn't have-"
Damien said nothing. Simply folded the paper, laid it down, got up and swatted me, hard.
Knowing my Damien, I turned around and saved the scowl for the paintwork. I guess he was just going to have to wait for my explanation.
Apparently uninterested in whether I was scowling or not - which did NOT improve my mood - Damien opened the back door, sat down on the doorstep and apparently admired the garden. It was a nice evening, bright and sunny..... this could go on for hours. I gallantly fought the urge to kick my foot through the wall, regretting my smart answer of three days ago. At the rate this was going I was going to be retired before I next spoke.
I have no idea how long it was before Damien spoke again but it WAS a long time. He gave me plenty of opportunity to think and reflect and the sound of his voice at last was an open relief.
"Nicholas, sit down at the table."
I slunk over, pulling out the chair as quietly as I could and sat down. I didn't know what the next few minutes would hold, but being able to see something besides paint was a relief in itself.
Damien leaned on the table. Arms spread, resting on his knuckles. I could see his hands, the weight resting on them as he leaned above me, voice deep, quiet and VERY serious.
"There is going to be no shouting, no messing around, this is not going to be an argument Nicholas, am I making myself clear?"
The desire to burst into tears almost overwhelmed me and I fought it back as best I could. How can one sentence take a person and make them feel three inches high?
"Yes, sir."
"Then tell me, what is going on and what have you been keeping from me?" Damien said matter of factly.
I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks. "I haven't BEEN keeping anything from you!" I said quickly, lowering my voice when his eyebrow went up. "You just aren't listening."
"You aren't listening Nicholas." Damien said firmly, "We are not arguing. You are going to tell me, right now, or you can go back to the corner."
"I...caused...the...accident," I said as firmly and quietly as I could.
Damien waited, still leaning on the table.
"Why aren't you listening?" I demanded into the silence.
"I am listening." Damien said bluntly. "I'm still waiting for you to tell me the truth, because we've discussed the accident several times. It isn't just that Nick, I'm not that silly."
It all came out almost as one sentence. "It IS the truth. I kept trying to tell you that I caused the accident and you kept telling me no. I tried agreeing but it's not the truth and now I feel bad because you think I agreed and I tried to but I don't."
"You don't?" Damien said, picking up on the end of that rather blurred statement.
I shook my head no, wiping angrily at the tear that rolled down one cheek.
"I made a quick move. So what if the cars behind me stopped, it was a domino effect and that lady didn't stop in time."
The tears wouldn't be denied.
Damien pulled out his handkerchief, handed it to me and pulled out the chair beside me to sit down. "Did you crash directly in front of her?" he asked me quietly. I wiped my face, shaking my head.
"Were you responsible for her driving too fast or not looking as she came up the slip road?"
"No, but I was responsible for the stopped traffic in front of her," I said through my tears.
"Were you responsible for her not reading the road appropriately and controlling her vehicle?"
"No." Why wasn't he getting it?
"Then how were you responsible Nick?"
Ok, I was going to need pictures. "I was in the front of the line." I repeated one more time, slowly and carefully.
Darling, read my lips.
Damien looked at me for a long moment. Then he got up and held out his hand.
"Come on."
I stood up slowly, putting my hand in his.
Damien picked up his car keys and took me out of the front door, locking it behind us. He unlocked his car and got in to the driver's seat, waiting for me. I slid into the passenger seat, confused, and after buckling up had another good try at drying my face. Damien handed me a bottle of water from the glove compartment, started the car and drove out of the village. It was quietening down after the rush hour- or what passes for rush hour in the country area we live in. Damien took us across to Ampthill and turned into the car park of the police station, where he parked.
"What...what are we doing here?"
"You feel that you're responsible for causing an accident." Damien said calmly, getting out of the car and holding out a hand to me. "Come on."
I was even more confused but put my hand in his and followed him. Surely he wasn't going to turn me in.
Damien took me into the foyer and up to the desk where we waited for the attention of the desk sergeant, and there I felt his arm slide around my waist and squeeze firmly.
"Calm down. If you're responsible for this accident, then the best thing to do is to talk to the police about it instead of worrying. If you're not responsible, then there is nothing for you to be worrying about."
That made sense, even if I didn't think the police needed to be involved. Damien was holding me, that was the most important thing.
Damien gave the desk sergeant a friendly smile, still keeping hold of me.
"Hello. We were witnesses to a road accident on Friday afternoon, I wonder if we might see a copy of the incident report please?"
"Where and when?" the desk sergeant asked.
"Friday about five pm, the slip road from the A508. The incident number was 712, I gave a brief statement to the reporting officer. My name is Mitchell, Damien Mitchell."
"Just a moment." I watched as the desk sergeant disappeared into a side room, coming back out a moment later with a file, which he laid down on the desk in front of Damien. "You need to sign here. You can sit in there to check it out, the file can't leave the office."
"Thank you." Damien signed the top sheet and took the file and me to the table indicated. There he opened the file, turned the sheet so we could both see it, and scanned down it. His finger picked out the relevant line and tapped it.
I looked there first, finding no mention of my name. I continued looking and it wasn't until I reached one of the last lines that I saw my name. Witness, Nicholas Hayes.
Witness. I wasn't even in the list of vehicles or persons involved.
Damien traced to another line in a separate paragraph.
"Caution given to driver green Fiat, driver grey Accord, Driving without due care and attention. Driving licence and insurance documents to be produced at station within seven days, private insurance matter. No police action taken.
"The green Fiat was the lady, wasn't it?" I asked quietly.
"Yes." Damien agreed. "And the grey Accord was the man who came up the slip road and shunted the end car, causing the domino shunting. Nowhere in this statement does it mention your actions, and the police knew the entire story."

I stared at the report for a very long time, thinking through everything that Damien had said. He wouldn't have paid off the officers; he's not that kind of person. When faced with the evidence, it appeared that I was the only one that thought I had been responsible.
"Do you want to talk to the police about your U turn?" Damien asked me. "Would you feel better?"
I shook my head no. It would have been in the report if it needed to be - there were too many witnesses.
"I think you need to look too," Damien went on, "At the verdict on the other two drivers. They DID crash. The Accord driver caused five people to have actual impact accidents to their car. And they received a caution for careless driving. That was all. That doesn't make your U turn which was silly in itself but quite safely done, look very bad. Does it?"
"No." I managed to look up at him. "I didn't mean not to believe you."
His hand rested on my knee discreetly under the table and squeezed reassuringly.
"We'll talk about that at home. Go and ask for a pen and paper at the desk."
I looked at him a moment, then got up to get the paper and pen, returning a minute later. I put them down in front of him and sat back down in my seat.
Damien tapped the bottom paragraph, turning the paper so I had a clearer view.
"Copy that out."
I took the pen and paper back and wrote out the paragraph without talking. It only took a few minutes. Damien pocketed it when I was done, took the original document back to the desk sergeant and I trailed him back to the car.
I wasn't sure I wanted to actually get home. Damien's confirmation that we'd discuss me not believing him sounded like a simple chat to unknowing ears. But that also led into the discussion of my lies to him, something he takes all too seriously. I hadn't actually covered any of that ground with him yet either. I shifted uncomfortably as we drove, well aware of how horrible I felt. This was already not going to be good, but as often happens, once it starts to come out I have this rushing urge to pour it all out, to get it all over with and to stop the awful feeling of not telling him something I know that really, he needs to know.
By the time Damien parked in the driveway, I was ready to come apart at the seams. Damien turned the engine off and turned to look at me, not opening the door. Just waiting.
"I'm sorry I lied to you."
It was blurted out, not even very clear. Damien simply waited, without accusation or demands for information. If I was going down, might as well make it a big splash.
"I kept trying to tell you I had something to do with it. You weren't going to listen."
"I wasn't going to listen?" Damien said mildly. There was no accusation in it, he didn't sound at all cross. Which made me feel even worse. It was obvious now why he wasn't listening then. He knew what was on the police report, I would have known too if I'd stopped to listen to what he was telling me, and I should have trusted that he wouldn't steer me wrong. Damien waited, putting a hand out to take mine when I didn't say anything.
"Nicky. Why do you think I kept saying it wasn't your fault? Did you think I just didn't believe you or didn't care what you thought?"
That did it. I burst into tears, squeezing his hand a little tighter while trying to cover my face with my other one. Damien waited, stroking the back of my hand with his thumb and letting my cry for a moment. Then he took the hand that was unsuccessfully covering my face and held it down.
"I'm sorry I didn't believe you," I said between gulps of air. I'd never thought for a minute that Damien wouldn't listen or care about what I thought.
"I knew it wasn't your fault from the facts of the situation." Damien said gently. "I know how guilty you felt, but the facts stood that it was NOT your fault. I explained that, and I would have kept explaining for as long as you needed to feel able to believe me. If you'd told me you still felt bad about it, that you still felt responsible we could have done what we did today- go and look at the reports, find other people to talk to you, PROVE it until you could believe it. But I can't help you if you aren't honest with me about what you're really thinking."
I sobbed harder for a moment before I could get out, "I know."
"Then why couldn't you tell me you still weren't convinced?"
"I tried but you kept spanking me. I didn't know how to make it stop, other than agree with you," I said miserably, wondering if there was anyone else in the world that could feel as badly as I did at the moment.
"No," Damien said simply, "I wasn't spanking you. You were over my knee, but you weren't being spanked Nick. You hadn't been anything more than swatted, and you know as well as I do that was about attitude, not refusing to agree with me. You were only being asked to justify to me why you felt guilty. It was the discussion you wanted to stop, not the spanking."
"You weren't accepting my reasons."
"Why wasn't I accepting your reasons?"
That was the one loaded question that we'd been dancing around for a long time. We were still in the car, maybe it was safer here.
"I was wrong."
"No," Damien said, confusing me still further. "You weren't wrong. You were telling me how you felt and what you thought, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. You're the only judge of it. What I was doing was asking you to give good reason to me as to why you felt that way. The bottom line is that you didn't want to have to justify it, or to admit I might be right, because then you'd have to stop feeling guilty, wouldn't you?"
I nodded miserably, finally understanding.
"So why wasn't I accepting your reasons?" Damien repeated gently.
I hate it when he does this. It could be interpreted as forcing me to admit he's right, or to force his will on mine, or any more of the twaddle put forward by those who really don't get the concept. I hated that question and I hated what lay beyond it, but I knew why he was asking and it wasn't being right that was on his mind at all.
"Because I had no basis for my reasoning," I finally capitulated. That was the only right answer, and the only way to move through this mess.
"Yes, you did." Damien said, not letting me off the hook that easily. "You had every justification for your reasoning, it was just different to mine. What was your reasoning?"
What was my reasoning? My reasoning was that I was right and I wanted to be right no matter what. I did something stupid and felt guilty, so to protect that I quit listening to Damien. I quit listening and didn't talk to him. My stomach did one of its slow flips as I fully realised exactly how much trouble I'd just made for myself, even more than if I had actually caused the accident.
"Nicholas." Damien said still gently but with meaning.
I'd lied to Damien over the course of several days and he knew that. This was the point of no return and I had to cross it myself. Even with his hand still on mine I felt very alone.
"I felt guilty and wanted to hold onto that," I said quietly into my lap.
"Why?" Damien asked. "What was the point of putting yourself through all that Nicky?"
"I thought I deserved it."
There was a long moment and a sigh from him. Less one of frustration I knew; more exasperated sympathy. His hand ran through my hair, smoothing it back from my forehead.
"Like you deserved to be not driving unless you absolutely had to. And polishing the stairs. And not using the computer or watching tv unless I put it on. Yes I noticed."
There was some measure of gratefulness that I felt for him having noticed, but it was far outweighed by the sinking feeling as I realised too, that I wasn't the one in charge and that wasn't how things were supposed to be.
"Who decides on punishments around here?" Damien said, apparently now having developed telepathy as a sideline.
"You do."
"So when did you decide you could get away with grounding yourself and that that was necessary?"
I shrugged, feeling smaller by the minute as the pace of the conversation was picking up steam.
"I didn't mean to actually DO that, I just felt like I shouldn't."
"You shouldn't what?" Damien said patiently.
"Be allowed to."
Damien, who has been speaking fluent Hayes for years, didn't untangle that any further.
"I punished you for the part in that incident that you WERE responsible for, didn't I?
Yes, he did. Not enough according to me the first time around, so let's do it again. Yay!....
"To the extent I felt necessary." Damien said, thankfully not picking up on the unsaid text. "As that's my responsibility, my judgement and my decision. What do you do if you're not happy with that Nick?
I looked out of the window, watching as the sun was heading down and wondering how soon I'd be seeing sunshine again. "Talk to you."
"Yes. And I'd have helped you deal with that. I certainly wouldn't have punished you any further. I don't think it was justified or necessary or at all what you needed. I would have done everything I could to have helped you deal with how you were feeling."
I knew that now. I even knew it then but chose not to remember. I nodded yes and closed my eyes, fighting back yet another threat of tears.
"So why didn't you?" Damien asked simply.
I shrugged again, unable to say yet again that I didn't want to.
"I didn't want to," I said a little more forcefully than I intended.
Damien just waited, looking at me.
"I'm sorry."
He didn't respond to that but his eyes were kind, even though he was now undoubtedly going to wring my neck.
"So you lied to me about how you felt, you didn't tell me when you were suffering with a problem because of that lie."
No matter what I've been thinking previously, no matter how much we talked, whenever Damien summed things up like that they got, somehow, a hell of a lot uglier.
"Yes, sir."
Damien nodded. "Is there anything else you want to tell me?"
I swallowed, not looking forward to this but I wanted it all out in the open.
"My asthma attacks were because I felt guilty for lying to you, even though I WAS worried about the dog."
Damien nodded, listening without criticising. It wasn't as if I seriously thought he didn't know, so much as wanting to be sure he knew I was being completely honest with him now and that I seriously regretted the last few days. That was more important than anything.
Damien took the keys out of the ignition and leaned across my lap to open the door. "Go and take your coat and boots off, and wash your face. When you're done you can go and stand in the corner on the landing."
I looked once more towards the sun, then headed inside. The stairs seemed more like a mountain than steps from one floor to the next. After I did the useless thing of washing my face, I went to stand in the corner, listening for the sounds of Damien.
The front door shut, I could hear him moving around downstairs. The every day noises, his voice talking to Anastasia, the kind of background that usually just means home. Once I'm standing here, those sounds take on a lot more meaning.
The time in the corner goes extremely slowly, adding about three hours to every minute that passes, but I swear when it's time to turn away from it, the clock moves backwards and it hasn't been nearly long enough.
I was starting to ache when I heard him starting upstairs, and he paused behind me, holding out his hand. I took it wordlessly and trailed him into the bedroom. We'd covered the ground in the car: we both knew exactly what was about to happen and why.
Damien took a seat on the end of the bed, reaching over to take my other
hand so that he was holding both, drawing me in between his knees. It ought, I suppose, to feel strange, him talking to me from a position of authority when I'm physically towering over him - trust me, it doesn't.
"This is mostly about honesty." Damien said mildly. "Isn't it? You telling me what you need to be honest with me about, and giving me honest answers. It isn't like you to lie in response to a direct question Nick, it really isn't. I'm a bit disappointed with that really."
I was disappointed too, but it hurt worse to hear it direct from him. "I'm sorry," I said, around a sob I was unable to control.
His fingers around mine were warm and firm, comforting even though he stuck straight to his point. "I expect more from you than that. And I really don't expect you to damage your health because you're fretting about something and not sharing or trying to deal with it. I'm not happy about that either. And quite apart from the honesty issues there's a certain amount of wilfulness involved in all this, isn't there?"
I nodded miserably, wondering how long it would be before my pants were at half mast, then how long it would be until it was all over with.
"Nick." Damien said sharply enough to make me jump and to pull my wandering attention back in a hurry. I swallowed.
Being wilful wasn't such a bad thing, but combined with lying and creating asthmatic situations, it was ugly.
"Yes, sir."
"You wanted your way and you stuck to it, despite the fact you had clear evidence it wasn't doing you any good. And that it was leading you into actions that you know we don't tolerate Nick. I'm still less happy about that. The other word for it is flat out disobedience."
"Being sorry unfortunately doesn't change the fact that you've spent the last three days behaving entirely unacceptably." Damien said bluntly. "Now you wrote that paragraph out for me at the police station. That is going to be copied out a lot over the next few days, and what time isn't filled by that, I'll keep occupied for you. If you need a reminder on who's in charge around here Nicholas, that's fine, we can do that without any problem."
I didn't have any doubt about that at all. I was certain my stomach couldn't twist any more than it already was.
"You're also going to need to put in the work to sort out your asthma after the hammering you've given it the past few days, and that's going to include making up the lost sleep." Damien went on relentlessly. "That's one of the most serious issues of all Nicholas, you may NOT do anything that deliberately damages your health no matter how right you think you are. Now we dealt with the U turn on a dual carriage way. That was quite sufficiently handled. We were also talking however about you being honest and open with me, and I thought at the end of that conversation that we were done. We clearly weren't, were we?"
"We were," I managed to squeak, knowing it was about to begin. "I just didn't let it stay that way."
"You were being honest with me at the time?" Damien inquired, raising an eyebrow at me.
"I wanted to," I said, voice whining far more than I'd hoped.
"You were being honest with me at the time?" Damien repeated in the same tone.
"Then we're not done." Damien pointed out, drawing me closer. I resisted the urge to shut my eyes and stared down at his hands while he unbuttoned my cords and pulled them down to my knees, tugging my briefs after them. And from there he gave me no choice or participation in the movement, he physically put me across his knee and his message was clear. I'd had some control, some say and involvement in this discussion the last time, and I'd cheated. This time I wouldn't be afforded that level of involvement.
I buried my face into my arms, curled up on the duvet. I hated everything about this position, especially these moments before everything was to begin. I could feel his hand on my thigh, his arm resting across my back and around my side. He didn't muck around. Once he had me in the position he wanted he got straight down to business and I got a sound, hard spanking, delivered without comment. Frankly, while both are awful, given the choice I'd rather he spoke to me during it, even if it's to continue scolding. At least there is something else to think about. You can't think about anything through a soundless one, because as soon as the words 'ow, stop' go through your head, you're back to the 'ow' part again and it goes on and on and on. And this spanking did.
I bore it as long as I could, mostly out of feeling thoroughly responsible and very much to blame, but inevitably within a few of those awful wallops I started twisting and long before he was done I was in tears, squirming as much as I could on his lap, although less to escape than just to move the target so he found just one less painful spot. He covered the entire ground as he usually does but a heck of a lot was focused right at the curve just above the top of my thighs which is by far the worst. I was about reaching the end of my tether, was getting beyond struggling or anything other than lying there and sobbing, when he stopped. I knew he wasn't done, and the knowledge made me cry still harder. He gave me a minute to calm down, and I didn't want to, but despite myself the tears did start to subside. His hand was on my back, rubbing over the base of my spine in what even in that situation was comforting.
"Are we done now?"
"YES, we're finished!" I sobbed out heartfully, hoping Damien felt the same way. I didn't think I could handle another swat, no matter where it was placed.
"Good." Damien said soberly. "I don't expect this to happen again Nick. Not the straight out lying, nor the bottling up when you know perfectly well what you're wound up about. It's not on, I won't have it, and if we have this discussion again there's going to be severe trouble. Is that clear?"
I nodded fervently, managing to get a yes, sir out between my continuous sobbing. Damien leaned across my back, I heard the ominous sound of the drawer slide open and I knew exactly what he was getting out of it.
I couldn't help myself. I begged and pleaded, promising Damien everything possible, though no idea how much of it made it out coherently. I tried pushing up on the bed and got nowhere and before I could do anything else, that first horrible swat landed.
Damien took no notice whatever; not that I had seriously expected him too. The paddle snapped down five more times, in hard, accurate wallops,
In some of my darkest hours in the corner, I could picture spankings like this. The kind that leave you wondering how in the world you ever forgot how bad it hurts. But the thing I'd imagine at the end of it, was one HUGE asthmatic reaction so that I wouldn't be the only one feeling so bad. But whatever it was that could trigger them always seemed to stay buried just when it would make Damien look bad. As he always said, it was bottling things up that made me wheeze- never letting it all out.
It took a long time before I could catch my breath. The immediate burn stopped within a few minutes of the last paddle swat, but the throbbing was going to go on for a long time. Damien replaced the paddle in the drawer and closed it, and his hand once more rested on my back, keeping me firmly where I was.
"This is over with Nick, and it's been adequately dealt with. If you have any doubts regarding that, whether they're now, or tonight or some time next week, I expect to be told."
I think I answered Damien as I found myself in an undignified heap at his feet, face buried in his lap and arms wrapped tightly around his waist. I could feel his hands on my shoulders and felt more than heard his voice above me.
"All right. It's all right, shhhh."
It didn't have a lot of meaning but I appreciated the general sentiment. He stroked my hair for a moment, then leaned down and pried me loose long enough to pull me into his arms. I knelt up and clung to him, sobbing wholeheartedly into his shoulder. He rocked me for a long time, saying nothing, doing nothing other than hold me, then he stood up, pulling me with him, and put me back far enough to see my face.
I saw no recriminations in his. It was over and done with and whatever part of the punishment was still to come was just balancing the books. I couldn't imagine what he saw in my face. Whatever it was, his eyes were very soft. He kissed me gently, which must have been pretty disgusting since by then both eyes and nose had been streaming for a while and I was still in tears.
"Get out of those clothes and put some pyjamas on, and then come downstairs. I'm going to sort out some dinner."
There wasn't much to actually get out of and the thought of anything rubbing against my backside made me want to cry further. I nodded at Damien and escaped into the bathroom. After washing the worst from my face, I turned towards the mirror to get a look at the damage. My bottom was still the same size though my brain had me convinced it was about three times that size. Instead of the normal milky white, it was an angry shade of red with a few white patches where the paddle had fallen at the end. I dressed in my softest pyjamas and headed downstairs, still snivelling.
Damien had taken pity on me regarding the lamb chops, for which I was very grateful. I couldn't have eaten them if my life depended on it. He was heating soup and he gave me a quick smile as I went to him and buried myself under his nearest arm.
I nearly inhaled the first few spoonfuls of soup as I was sobbing having to sit, even with a pillow. Somehow I managed to get through dinner without drowning. While Damien cleaned up behind me, I started copying out the first of many accident reports.
Rereading the report, I reflected on what Damien had tried to tell me before. He had to sign off on the report as a witness and I did too, though I was too upset to understand what it all meant at the time. If I'd have just given thought to what Damien had said, rather than embracing the guilt, the stupid move with the car would have been over and done with and probably barely remembered.
This punishment, however, was going to last a lot longer and leave a far stronger impression. Reading between the lines of what he'd said earlier, I had a nasty forward view of a lot of extremely early nights, and very likely a lot of time spent looking at a corner in the next few days, as well as the writing. Damien gets to the bottom of everything I do, why did I think that accident would have been any different?
I kissed him later, as he was sleeping. It must be hard work being right all the time.
~ The End ~
Copyright Rolf and Ranger 2010


Anonymous said...

very complex, I loved the story but I dont know if we can all be 100% evolved all the time.

Key said...

OK, Please don't shoot me but I like this version better than the first, it seems more true to how I would expect Nick and Damien to react xxx

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