Jamie is a raving lunatic.
As I got to know him better, I began to realise why. He was seriously bright. Behind that frenetic attention span and sledge-hammer smile was a mind that moved about three times the speed of mine. I began to suspect half of his lunacy was a way out of boredom, and the other half a way out of distracting people from realizing his intelligence.
He'd just started his last year at University then, studying for a degree in applied mathematics. And not doing very well at it either, as I found when I began to take notice of the essays and marking sheets that ended up in my house whenever he spent the night. I got one hell ofa shock the first night he sat down at my computer with half an eye on the film I was watching, and proceeded to knock out a three thousand word assignment in an hour and a half. Off the top of his head. I watched him do it, and there was not a page of notes in sight.
"Did you research any of that?" I asked him when he rejoined me on the sofa. He gave me one of his little-boy shrugs, cuddling up with his legs tucked under him.
"Easy. Not worth researching."
And that was typical Jamie. He was getting the assignments in allright, and never missing a deadline, but he was doing it on half-done, sketchy work and grades that were a lot lower than he was capable of. I thought about that long and hard. We were seeing a lot of each other. Actually he was trying to persuade me to let him move in, but if this relationship went the way I hoped it would, I didn't want him finding he had wild oats left in a couple of years time. I wanted him to finish his degree in freedom and enjoy it, before he and I made any sort of commitment. I also hadn't made any real attempt to manage his behaviour since that first night at Sanctuary, although I was aware of several areas of his life in dire need of a firm hand. School work was one of them. His friends were another. Some of them were nice, normal kids, but there were others I felt were downright dangerous. Jamie wouldn't tell me what he got up to on the nights I didn't see him, and I knew he was capable of following thugs simply for the fun of it. Jamie had a mind that was permanently in search of excitement, and yet he had no grain of common sense or forethought and he was alarmingly naive. In fact he worried me sick. But I was still dithering, trying to hold back when my instincts were suggesting I got hold of this boy and held on tight. I was finally forced into a decision when Don and Mike invited out one Sunday afternoon to a pub by a canal, some way out of town. It was a hot day, still early enough in Autumn that a lot of men were shirtless and a lot of the younger ones were eyeing the canal longingly. Don saw Mike looking as he got up to get the next round, and said mildly, "I wouldn't advise it. God alone knows what's under the surface."
Mike shrugged and smiled. Jamie drifted away and began to walk along the lock, arms outstretched. He was always unable to sit still for more than ten minutes. I sat back and admired him; bright hair glinting in the sunshine, lithe and slight and perfectly formed.
"You're going to have to be careful." Mike said quietly from across the table. I looked at him in surprise. He leaned towards me. "Jamie. I know the type. If you let him drift like he's doing, he'll end up in trouble. He'll attach to any man with a deep enough voice and not all of them are going to be as nice as you."
"That's a bit cynical." I protested. Jamie gave me a wry look.
"I've met a lot of Jamies."
One day I'd summon up the courage to ask what he'd done before he met Don. Don reappeared with the drinks and cast a quick look around.
Out of sight. I frowned.
"He was on the lock a minute ago."
"Probably walked further down the bank." Mike suggested.
He was out of sight long enough to make me nervous. I left Don and Mike chatting and drifted down towards the lock, pretending I was doing anything but looking for a sandy haired, green eyed maniac. The shadow made me look up half way along the tow path. Jamie. He was standing on the parapet of the bridge, stripped to his shorts. The chill hit me to the heart. His arms were raised above his head in preparation for a dive. I raised my voice in desperation, hoping I wouldn't startle him into falling.
Half the population on the canal bank looked up. Jamie glanced down at me and I saw a flash of one of his crazier grins. I put all the authority I could muster into my voice.
"Jamie it isn't safe, get down!"
Green eyes winked at me in the sun. I struggled up the bank towards him, praying he'd listen. Boats were thick below him, there was no judging the depth or clarity of the water. Don was right, anything could lie hidden beneath the surface. Something about Jamie's change of stance warned me. A barge was approaching and he'd seen his last chance.
"Jamie! No!" I thundered, and saw him look straight at me before he braced and pulled off a beautiful swan dive. My heart froze. The splash of his entry was as clean as the dive itself.
The next two seconds lasted for eternity. My mind flooded with images of rocks, shopping trollies, dumped cars and scrap metal. Then Jamie's head broke water. The boat, perilously near, sounded it's horn. Don, standing behind me with every muscle in his big shoulders roped, swore aloud. Jamie swam to the bank in long, leisurely strokes. I took a couple of deep, slow breaths.
This was a public place, we couldn't make a scene here. Jamie was dripping with water and with satisfaction as he reached us, bowing politely to the admiring claps and whistles of the other spectators. I had the urge now growing familiar- to get hold of him and shake him until his teeth rattled.
"If you don't do something drastic about that child," Don said savagely, "I will."
I watched Jamie weigh up our two angry faces and turn on the charm like a tap.
"Did I scare you? I'm sorry."
Don looked at me. I nodded. Don turned on his heel and went back to Mike.
"I am sorry." Jamie said again, quite unfazed.
"You are not." I said grimly. "You heard what I said."
"You looked straight at me, I saw you. And you heard what Don told Mike about diving here."
"I was there. I might not have been listening." Jamie pointed out reasonably. I held onto my temper with both hands.
"Don't you argue with me! You heard and you decided to do it before I could get near enough to stop you!"
"Wasn't it a great dive?"
"Jamie do you know how many people break their necks doing that? You didn't so much as look to see what the depth was! It was sheer luck you pulled it off!"
My voice had raised enough to make people look our way. Jamie gave me alook under his eyelashes.
"I'm sorry. I'll know next time."
"I warned you."
"But I wanted to do it."
Who the hell had raised this child? His face was completely calm and I couldn't read his eyes. I thought possibly there was some amusement there, but at least he didn't dare let me see it. I jerked my head at the table where Don and Mike were watching us.
"We are going to go back, politely and quietly, and you are going to apologize for scaring the hell out of them. I'll deal with you when we get home."
"I'll behave." Jamie said with charming contrition. I fixed him with a stare that finally managed to disconcert him.
"Believe me, I can damned well make you."
He apologized to Don with a sincerity that made me fold my arms to keep my hands off him. I was learning to read him like a book: the little horror was laughing at us. The word 'don't' was a dare to him, pure and simple. We drove home in silence, Don giving me one last quiet word as we parted in the car park.
"Ranger for Christ's sake pull your finger out with that kid and take him in hand before he kills himself. Or someone else kills him."
He had a point. I dropped my coat in the hall at home and gave Jamie a grim look.
Jamie looked faintly startled. "Ranger we've done all this."
"I haven't even started." I assured him.
"You're blowing it way out of proportion."
I raised my voice, drowning him out. "One, you'd be out of proportion with a broken neck. Two, don't ever try that look of innocence on mea gain. You heard, you made your choice, that was sheer willfulness. And thirdly, I said NO."
Jamie hesitated, beginning to be uncertain. I levelled a finger at the stairs.
He moved. Fairly quickly. I hung up his coat and mine and made myself calm down. He was sitting on the edge of my bed when I went up to him, his eyes wide like a small boy in trouble. I took a seat and patted my knees. Jamie swallowed.
"But I only-"
"I told you. I won't take your act Jamie. Screw me about and your backside is going to smart. You're going to get a thorough spanking for that dive. Not just because it was stupid and it was dangerous, but because I told you to stop and you chose not to listen."
"It was only-" Jamie began again. I fixed him with a Look.
"Did you hear me call to you or not?"
"Yes or no. Jamie I'm waiting!"
"Yes." Jamie admitted finally.
"Then come here. NOW."
No one can turn on the tragedy like Jamie can. The wide eyes of a six year old pierced me, filled with injured purity. I sharpened my voice enough to make him jump.
"If I have to come over there and get you, you are going to be one very sorry kid. Now MOVE!"
He got up reflexively. I pointed at the carpet in front of me. He came, not terribly willingly, starting to look genuinely apprehensive.
"Pull your pants down." I ordered.
His mouth twisted like a kid's. "Oh no-"
"Move it Jamie. Before I get really annoyed."
He put his hands to his belt and began to unbuckle. I waited, pointedly, watching his slow progress as he unzipped his jeans and slid them down his thighs. His shorts followed still more slowly. I waited until his eyes hesitantly met mine before I patted my knee again.
"Over my lap."
He looked at me with all the appeal he could muster. I took hold of his wrist and he winced, but laid himself down across my knees. I ran a hand gently over the curve of his bottom. He wriggled plaintively, his bare behind vulnerable and twitching nervously. I wrapped my other arm around his back and pinned him down, tense with apprehension. Then he felt my hand crack down and he reared his head, shoulders and bottom, sounding shocked.
What he was surprised about, I had no idea. The spanks fell in a steady rain, not too fast, but soundly and very effectively. Jamie squirmed under my hand and his voice rose with crisp sound of the smacks on his bare cheeks.
"Ow- ouch! Ah-"
His tone was gradually getting higher. His bottom was already taking on the glow that would become deep red. Jamie made a sudden and assertive move to get up, sounding as matter of fact as though we'd been playing some interesting game but now he had to go and take a phone call.
"Allright that's enough. Ranger I've had enough. I mean it!"
"I'll tell you when you've had enough." I informed him, not letting him move an inch off my legs. "If you want to behave like you did this afternoon, then you take the consequences my lad. Things are going to change around here. We are going to set up a few basic rules and you are going to stick to them, or else you're going to be spending a lot of time in this position."
I gave him a few harder swats across his bottom and he jerked, voice starting to crack.
"For a start, you're going to study while you're here. Properly. No more assignments written eight hours before they're due in, or rotten marks from sloppy work. I am going to look at every piece of work you get marked and if it's sub standard, you are going to get a spanking. You are going to start telling me where you are going and when you will be back. You sleep either here or at your parents house unless you discuss it with me first and I know where you are."
"You are going to tell me who you are with, and if I catch you hanging around with thugs, there will be hell to pay."
"OW! Ranger pleeease-"
"Likewise if I catch you lying to me, or prevaricating. If I tell you to do something, you damn well do it. You do not defy me, you do not disobey me, and you will not be cheeky to me or to anyone else. Do you understand me?"
WHACK WHACK WHACK
Jamie was crying now, I could hear his sobs mixed up with his pleas. He was no longer struggling either, just wriggling over my lap as I went on spanking his bare and blazing bottom. Then the floodgates burst and the promises began to pour out. He'd do anything. He'd be good. He'd never do anything like it again. I didn't believe a word of it, but I was starting to learn that Jamie's initial response to a spanking was always a fight. When he reached this stage, he'd given in to me and he'd had enough. I gave him the last couple of smacks and stopped. He lay where he was, crying hard. I helped him move and he slid down to his knees on the floor, his scarlet face drenched with tears. I pushed his hair back out of his eyes and when he calmed down a bit, I drew him closer and gave him a hug. He clung to me, still crying.
"I'm going to do that again." I told him firmly. "Every time I catch you in trouble. So you'd better start thinking before you pull any more stupid stunts."
He hiccoughed into my neck. I stroked his back until he calmed down, then I pulled him to his feet and buttoned his jeans, ignoring his wincing.
"Wash your face. And then get your books and come down stairs. You're going to get at least an hour's study in every night you spend here."
Jamie looked so pathetic it was hard to let go of him, but his answer was quick and quiet.