16 year old Madison doesn’t mind living with her older brother, but they have totally different perspectives when it comes to whether or not rules should be followed. It just so happens that Madi’s favorite recreational activities involve quite a bit of law-breaking. Hopefully she won’t dig herself into too big of a hole!
The 1 train is closed tonight… now’s our chance!
The text message ringtone pierced the silence in my room as I lay in bed lamenting the fact that I was grounded. It was from my best friend, Hannah.
She and my other best friend (Emma) were my partners in crime. Each weekend, and some weeknights, we snuck out to make anarchist graffiti, sometimes breaking into abandoned places. We’d even created a blog to show off forgotten buildings and the best street art in NYC, and were finally up to a thousand followers! We’d already made a name for ourselves in the underground urban world.
But that night I was already in pjs and ready to sleep, thanks to a stupid snowstorm earlier in the week. My friends and I had snuck out and taken a train to Albany to tag a government building to protest the new right-wing governor. Everything would’ve been fine except the weather in Albany was much worse than in the city, and the train we’d intended to take back at 4:42am was cancelled. It was also a school day, so when my surrogate guardian (and older half-brother) woke and saw I wasn’t home he was pissed. Fortunately, he hadn’t found out the details of what I’d actually been doing. Unfortunately, he had yelled at me for a couple of hours and threatened to beat my ass, but settled on grounding me for the next two weekends. #Lucky?
Brett was usually fairly lenient, respecting the fact that, at sixteen, I was basically an adult. He’d taken me in after our mom was arrested, and I was fortunate because we never had much beef with each other. The only problem was his demand of 100% honesty which was almost impossible for me to follow, especially since the relationship I had with my mom was built on almost 100% dishonesty. And he was also about as far from an anarchist as one could be, so would really blow up if he knew about our blog.
Thinking about all of this made me a bit apprehensive about sneaking out that night. But Hannah, Emma and I had been trying to sneak into the abandoned subway station for months now, always chickening out because of the stupid 1 train. And now it was finally closed down! I couldn’t let my best friends down… and besides, anarchists like me don’t let rules keep them from their job!
Let’s meet in TS by the 2 train I wrote back, rolling out of bed. I crept through the darkness, sliding my warm black hoodie over my head before layering up with a leather jacket. I searched for a black beanie but had no idea where I’d left it, so I settled with a bright green one with Kermit the Frog eyes.
“You idiot,” Hannah said when the three of us united. “You’re the only person I know who would wear Kermit to a break in.”
“It’s not like anyone will see us, but I’ll take it off before we go in anyway.”
Emma was already nervous, and I could feel her uncertainty pulsating through the nearly empty train as we rode uptown together. She was also the peace-maker of the trio, or the one who changed the subject during tense situations. “What’re you thinking of painting tonight?” she asked me.
“Something political. I’m so tired of all this ‘democracy’ bullshit. How is voting between Hitler and Mussolini a choice? They’re all fuckin’ liars.”
My friends both gave me a fist bump because anarchy rules! Then Hannah pulled out the prescription ADHD medication she’d stolen from her brother, distributing a tablet to each of us to swallow before a long night of illegal street art.
The train pulled into the 96th street station and we hopped onto the platform. “Madi! Your hat!” Emma shrieked and I hurriedly pulled up the black hood of my sweater to cover the green Kermit eyes. We waited for the coast to clear and hopped onto the track that the 1 train would have been running on, making our way five blocks south to the abandoned station.
The scariest part of sneaking into an abandoned station is not the possibility of death by train, or even the possibility of getting caught. No. The scariest part of sneaking into an abandoned station is the sight of fat, squeaky, evil rats. Surprisingly, Emma was the bravest of us all and led the way with her phone’s flashlight on full blast.
None of us spoke as we jogged down the tracks. I, for one, was too hyper aware of my senses (thanks to the pill and adrenaline), focused on the pounding of my heart, and the pounding of my feet against the rattling wood, signaling when one of the express trains was near. Also I was watching out for squirrel-sized rats with slices of pizza — that would’ve been the perfect photo for our blog! #RatsOfNYC
We jogged the last of the track and arrived on the platform of an abandoned subway station, built in 1904 and closed in 1959 because no one ever used it. But you could tell that it’d been used in recent years as a canvas for street artists from around the world, those brave enough to trek into the dark, creepy underground tunnels of New York City.
“Wow. This is badass,” Hannah said.
Emma started recording her “before” video for the blog as Hannah set up the lights and I plotted an escape route, just in case.
“Who’re you gonna paint over?” Hannah asked as she scanned over each individual piece of art.
I snapped out of my paranoia and went towards her, studying the wall to figure out which section needed to be cleaned up most. In the meantime, Emma put away her camera and rolled a joint.
We each had our own individual jobs for painting nights. Hannah was in charge of being on the lookout. She didn’t smoke weed, just popped a couple of pills and stayed mostly on alert. It was because she was the least artistic of the group, but instead enjoyed the planning out and adrenaline rush of it all. Emma was the filmographer, but also helped me with my creative vision, often during our pre-paint smoke session. And I, of course, was the artist.
“What are you thinking?” Emma asked me, striking the lighter and inhaling a breath of creativity.
“Devil horns, anarchist symbol, it’s not democracy if both choices are evil, revolution? And of course my usual ‘expose the liar’ tag,” I said before she passed me the joint and I inhaled the minty flavor, feeling the burn in my throat as the smoke flowed through and filled my lungs. I held a deep breath, blowing it out through my nose as I closed my eyes. My brain started feeling tingly. Images appeared in my mind: vivid colors and clever quotes.
We each took another couple of hits and then got to work. I dug the spray paint out of my bag and began to cover the wall with red and black, creating a simple yet complex-looking mural representing our atrocious political system, the most anarchist and beautiful piece of art I’d ever done.
“That’s amazing,” Hannah said from behind me, startling me slightly as I was very high at this point. “Give me your phone, let me take pics!” Without waiting for an answer she snatched the phone out of my hands and took photos at horrible angles, sometimes accidentally getting my face in the photo (which is a no-no), but she didn’t know any better because she wasn’t a photographer. And I was too high to really admonish her style, so I just kept quiet, reminding myself to delete them later. Right now I was mesmerized by my work. This was going to make me kind of a famous street artist. Especially when these pictures got out to the world…
Behind me, Hannah shrieked and I heard a crash. We looked over and she pointed towards a rat which sadly was not running around with a slice of pizza. Emma threw something at it and it scurried off, but we were too creeped out to stay down there any longer.
“You have my phone? I can’t wait to instagram these pics.” I told Hannah.
“Uh huh,” I heard and we climbed down from the platform, jogging the 5 blocks back to 96th street. We were out of breath from the run, and could feel the adrenaline from the tips of our toes. We just needed a minute of fresh air from outside, and Hannah needed a cigarette.
It was nearing dawn, so I decided to take a cab home. That was when I realized that Hannah still had my phone. But she told me she’d given it to me, and both of us dug through our bags and pockets and couldn’t find it. “Just tell Brett you lost it. He’s rich! He’ll just get you a new one.”
I glared at my friend, but she was right, and I was too high to care. So I gave them both a hug, hopped in a taxi and headed home, hoping that Brett was still sleeping.
He was. I was happy to change back into my pjs and crawl back into bed as if nothing had happened… like I’d been in bed the whole night, only dreaming about the painting.
I slept until noon the next day, then staggered into the living room where my brother sat on the sofa with his laptop, undoubtedly researching for a case. I was already missing my phone, so decided to sweet talk him for a bit before saying, “Someone from school stole my phone. I left it in my bag on Friday while I was in gym and when I went back, it was gone.” I gave him an exaggerated sad face to make sure he believed me.
“I thought I saw you with your phone yesterday?”
I stammered to make up an excuse. “That was my iPod… I was worried about telling you about my phone because I know I should’ve kept a better eye on it, but I really miss it. I promise I’ll never leave it in my backpack unsupervised again…” He didn’t answer, so I added, “and I’ll never sneak out again…” Still nothing. That meant I had to just be direct: “Will you please get me a new one? I’m going crazy and I’ve been doing really well in school! I just need a social life. Everyone has a phone.” Then I added in a softer voice, “Some even have the newest iPhone…”
He looked up at me, leaning back in his seat and staring me dead in the eyes for the longest 30-seconds of my life. I felt like he could see right through me… like he knew what I’d done last night. I tried to keep my cool so I wouldn’t look suspicious. “But I don’t need the newest iPhone, I was just sayin’.” His silence was killing me. “Please Brett?”
“We’ll see,” he said, stretching and checking the time, then announcing lunch plans with his work associate, inviting me along.
Hanging out with my 38 year-old brother wasn’t exactly on my list of most exciting things to do on a Sunday afternoon, but I was grounded, so what else was I going to do? Even if their meeting was boring, at least his associate was eye candy.
I agreed to join them and showered quickly, dressing in my cutest outfit because even though I knew that I had absolutely no chance with Michael, I could at least pretend like I did. On our way out I grabbed my iPod, happy for the free wifi on the train, so I could check my Snapchat messages before eating. I only had one message… from Emma: dude, u made the news
I figured out what she meant a little while later when we were waiting for our food. Local news images flashed on the tv, and I half glanced at it while Michael and Brett talked about work. And there it was, a short clip that I couldn’t hear, only read the closed captioning as a picture flashed on the screen… a picture of my mural, the one Emma had posted on the blog. Then I read on the closed captioning that other street artists had been inspired to paint there as well, also anarchist messages.
“Earth to Madi,” I heard Brett say as he elbowed me.
“Oh,” I said, looking over to them and receiving my meal from the server. But Michael had noticed me paying attention to the news story. And he’d caught me smirking. He would know I’d done it…
He didn’t say anything, though. Not yet anyway. Just gave Brett the bad advice to track my phone. Couldn’t he have just agreed that I needed a new device?
Ugh, I prayed so hard that my battery was dead because if Brett tracked my phone, he would see that it was left in the subway station somewhere. But I guess that could have been anyone. For all he knew, I was in bed all night over the weekend. Hopefully he didn’t learn otherwise, or I would be in mega trouble! Finding out that I’d snuck out would be bad enough (esp since I was already grounded), but adding on the lying about my phone would be the icing on the cake. I feared he would actually spank me for that instead of idly threatening to.
The next morning Brett gave me explicit instructions to stop by his office on the way home to check in since I couldn’t text him. He was very busy on an important case, so he didn’t have time to take me to get a new phone yet. And honestly, he was probably waiting to see how much he could trust me before giving into my pleas.
“Madi! Where were you all day yesterday? I feel like it was the most important day of our lives and you were MIA!” Hannah scolded when I finally got to school.
“I think Michael is on to me,” I told them, explaining the looks he gave me the day before, and his insisting that Brett track my phone. “If Brett finds out he’s gonna kill me!”
“He’s not going to find out,” Emma said, eyes glossy because she’d clearly gotten high before school.
“If I were as high as you, I wouldn’t be worried either,” I scowled.
She pulled out a vape pen and slyly offered me a hit, but I decided to decline because I didn’t need to add another thing to my rap sheet.
I nervously went through the day, worrying about every potential worst-case scenario that popped into my mind. I even totally screwed up a class presentation because my mind was so distracted. I felt like dark clouds were hanging over me, promising that a hurricane was near, but all I could do was board up my windows in hopes that no damage occurred. Or ignore the clouds altogether and take the chance that it would pass.
My nerves were so on edge that I decided to take Emma up on her offer to vape for a few minutes before going to meet Brett at work. I hated that part of my punishment was no going out after school, and now I didn’t even have a phone to track when Brett was coming back home (he didn’t realize the tracking thing could work both ways). But also, he didn’t really know how far my school was from his office by train, so I took advantage of that by taking the long way and getting a snack.
“Should we go back to get your phone?” Emma asked, trying to help me problem-solve.
“No, it may be too suspicious. What if he already tracked it and saw it there, and then if I all of a sudden have it again he’ll know I went to get it. And anyway, he’s keeping me on a tight leash – I have to stop by the office before going home. He expects me by 4pm.”
She looked at her phone to check the time. “Ummm, you’re gonna be late…”
The weed made me not really care, even if I was trying not to smoke as much as Emma so nobody at the law office would know that I was high.
“Train traffic,” I said, giggling. “Every New Yorker’s best excuse for arriving late. He probably won’t even want to talk to me, just see that I’m alive and send me home to do homework. Homework is lame.”
But I was wrong. When I stepped foot into the office, his receptionist greeted me. “He’s on an important call but wants to speak with you. Have a seat and I’ll call you when he’s ready.” She gave her customer service-y smile and I sat down, nervously looking around me.
“Madi?” I heard from behind me, and jumped slightly, seeing Michael had crept up without my noticing.
“Oh, um, hey,” I said, waving.
“Remember that app you were telling me about?” he asked, eyeing the receptionist and adding, “I can’t figure it out… will you come show me?”
Could he be more awkward? “Um, sure,” I said, not really knowing what he was talking about, but followed him to his office anyway. When he closed the door behind us, I felt butterflies in my tummy.
Michael looked down at me, staring straight into my eyes. “You were the one who painted that mural in the subway.”
Fuck. He knew. But I wouldn’t admit it. “Where’s your proof?” I asked defensively.
“That’s all the proof I need,” he said, shaking his head. He took a deep breath, then continued. “You have to tell Brett.”
“What? I can’t! Why!?”
“If you don’t, I will,” he said. “He already traced your phone to 91st street, and you know how he is… he’s not going to stop until he finds out what really happened. It’s better for him to hear it from you instead of finding out on his own.”
I shivered a little. “He’s not going to find out.” But even I knew it was a long shot. “Okay, fine, I’ll tell him. But give me time.”
He reluctantly agreed. “But just remember you’re delaying the inevitable… the sooner you tell him, the better it will be for everyone.”
That’s always easier said than done, though.
A few minutes later, Brett worried over my phone being ditched on 91st street, suspecting it was tied to the “gangsters” who did all the graffiti in the abandoned station. I tried not to roll my eyes at his use of the word “gangster” and instead played into it.
“Brett, maybe it’s better not to worry about it. If it’s the people I’m thinking of, they could really hurt me if I got them in trouble…”
“Who do you think it is?” he asked.
I dunno why I hadn’t expected him to ask me that question. “Just this girl at school. Please just don’t do anything.” In a last-ditch effort to shut him up I even said, “it was someone seeking revenge for Mom. Can we just forget about it?”
He clearly wanted to continue arguing, but felt my uneasiness and decided to drop it. Our mom was a topic that we tended not to approach – she was a corrupt politician who screwed over a lot of people and ended up in jail for loads of things: conspiracy, bribery, fraud, money laundering, and filing false tax returns. We both chose to try and forget we were even related to her.
“We’ll get your new phone tomorrow,” Brett said, giving me an empathetic look.
“Thanks… I should get going… need to study…” It was another lie, but I’d told so many lies lately that it came out kind of naturally.
I felt sick to my stomach the whole night, knowing that I had to tell Brett the truth the next day, but also knowing that I’d dug myself into a really deep hole, especially with bringing our mother into it. I would tell him after I got my new phone. Then at least I’d already have the phone… right? Or would he take it back away from me? Fuck, why hadn’t I thought of this before lying to him?
Sleeping was out of the question and I tossed and turned throughout the night, settling on playing games on my iPod until about 5am when I was finally able to doze for a bit.
The next day was a haze, and I ended up ditching my afternoon classes to take a nap at Emma’s house because it was closer to the school than mine and I knew I had to stop by Brett’s office anyway. I was still super anxious, though… despite only getting 2 hours of sleep, I wouldn’t have been able to rest without the joint I stole from Emma’s stash.
And it was kind of nice to be without a phone for a little while. As soon as the nagging desire to check social media subsided, I started to notice more things in the real world around me. I was able to mindfully acknowledge how comfy the bed was, how soothing the chirping of baby birds outside was. And the scent of Emma’s lavender candle lured me to a deep, peaceful sleep.
When Madison told me that the phone theft had been due to our mom, I was unimpressed. Seeing the pain in her eyes kept me from telling her aloud that this wasn’t over. She’d been through a lot in the last few months; I didn’t want to make it worse.
But I couldn’t help getting involved. On Tuesday I went to the office bright and early, trusting Madison to get to school on her own. I had an 8 o’clock meeting, but decided to call in a favor beforehand — a few months ago I’d worked on a big case for the MTA, and figured out a way to get them out of a multi-million dollar lawsuit. I was sure the director wouldn’t mind pulling a few strings to get Madison’s phone back, and was hopeful that he’d also not mind checking the video surveillance for evidence against whoever had stolen the phone.
By the time my meeting was over, Madison’s phone was already found and safely on my desk. The battery was dead so I plugged it in to surprise her… She would be stoked to not only have her phone back, but also to be able to use it right away. She definitely wouldn’t be expecting it.
I kept it charging in the corner of my office, working on an important case and trying to ignore the burning feeling inside me — it was the same feeling I’d had when our mom was arrested, a mixture of disappointment, rage, shame, and unfairness. Madison shouldn’t have to pay for our mother’s mistakes… it wasn’t her fault that our mom is an evil, corrupt bitch. And anyway, our mother was paying the consequences herself; she’d be in jail another 13 years at least. I couldn’t live with myself if I let these juvenile delinquents get away with seeking out revenge on my little sister.
The video surveillance was taking a long time to get, and I had a break after lunch which prompted me to go to Madison’s school with my extra time. I demanded to meet with the gym teacher to ask questions about potential students who would have stolen her phone, but the gym teacher had heard nothing about a theft, nothing about students picking on Madison, and even said that she’d seen Madison be a bully more often than she had been bullied. Also, why wasn’t Madison in class today?
I was infuriated and stormed to the office demanding to know why they hadn’t notified me of her absence. Apparently she hadn’t been in any of her afternoon classes.
I was feeling a stronger ire as my driver took me back to the office for an afternoon meeting. My mind was racing — Madison would have a lot of explaining to do when she came in later. Why wasn’t she in class? Did this have to do with the students who had stolen her phone? Or was it because of that hoodlum friend of hers, Hannah? Oh how I wished I could spank that girl — she really deserved it!
I was able to put my angry feelings aside for the meeting, then felt a little relieved when after the meeting, my receptionist told me, “the MTA has surveillance footage for you.”
I rushed to their main office, nearly knocking the security guard over trying to see the screen. The man pointed to where three girls around Madison’s age hopped off the train, 2 of them with dark hoods, but the other with a bright knitted beanie that looked eerily familiar. I racked my brain trying to figure it out. Then it clicked.
The security guard paused the video when their faces turned towards the camera, and he zoomed in on the three culprits: it was Madison and her two friends.
“Are you sure these are the same ones that went to 91st street?” I asked. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions.
But yes, the security guard was sure, and showed the rest of the video, up to the point where they jumped down onto the train tracks and disappeared into the darkness. He fast-forwarded the video a few hours and they could be seen jumping back onto the platform, staggering contentedly.
I felt the anger rising from my chest. My cheeks flushed, head spinning. I didn’t want to believe it. The whole time it had been Madison?? She’d snuck out again, and even worse, she’d committed several misdemeanors, including breaking & entering and vandalism. Then she had the audacity to lie to me about her phone and blame our mother, a sensitive topic for us both, one that she knew would hit a certain spot inside of me.
But unfortunately for her, my natural instinct was to fight, not avoid. I wanted to fight for justice, and for my sister to be treated fairly. Oh, I would certainly see to it now that she was treated fairly. Hannah wouldn’t get the spanking she deserved, but someone else absolutely would!
At 3:52pm, I caught the train to Brett’s office. I was groggy and pushing getting there on time – it was a 15 minute train ride on a good day. But I still made it before my brother.
I had pulled out homework and was working on Trig problems when he came in. His swift pace gave me the clue that he wasn’t too happy, but being half-stoned and trying to figure out trig had me so distracted I didn’t take the hint. He could be angry about anything!
He spoke to his receptionist for a moment and then looked at me, shoving the door of his office open. “Madison, come here.”
I looked up, about to smile but then noticing the way that Brett’s jaw was locked and his eyes were dancing in angry flames. Also he’d used my full first name. Shit. I’d waited too long to come clean about everything. A sense of dread swept over me, causing my feet to drag as if I were walking through deep, squishy mud.
He gave me an impatient glare. How much did he know?
Closing the door to his office, he didn’t hesitate to begin the tongue-lashing. “You lied to me.”
“What?” I asked as he stood in front of me, towering over my shivering frame. I felt almost outside of myself, like I was watching 2 characters on a tv show going through the lines that had been fed to them… but the female heroine had forgotten what she was supposed to be saying!
Brett didn’t grace me with a response and instead went to his desk, picking up something and shoving it in my hands – my phone. This couldn’t be good.
I looked down to see a photo from a few weeks ago of me, can of spray paint in one hand, joint in the other. I had a silly look on my face, an obviously stoned look. And behind me was a half-painted mural that said: “expose the liars!” That was a good way to describe how I felt right then… exposed.
“My favorite photo in there is the one from last weekend where you’re vandalizing the abandoned train station… where your phone was found.”
I looked up at him, tears brimming in my eyes, threatening to fall at any moment. “Look… I can explain…” I said.
“Please. Please explain to me what all of this means, because to me it looks like you were lying to me about someone stealing your phone.”
I tried to find my words, but nothing would come out. I’d really fucked up, and needed to at least apologize, but even that got stuck in my throat.
“I’m waiting,” he said impatiently.
How was I supposed to answer? He’d caught me fair and square. I didn’t even have the heart to be upset that he’d semi-invaded my privacy. It just sucked that now I’d have to explain not only why I’d lied about the phone in the first place, but also why there were so many drug and graffiti photos in my album. Why hadn’t I hidden those better?!
“Actually I have a lot of homework…” I stammered. #BadExcuses
“Oh, and that’s another thing. I went to your school today to find out more about who’s targeting you.”
FUCK! Why did I remind him? Just what I needed on top of all the rest of the shit I was in trouble for.
“Where did you go during your afternoon classes? Painting more graffiti?”
“No! I was…” I broke off. I couldn’t even defend myself anymore. A rush of shame suffocated me and I felt my ears and cheeks redden. I wasn’t going to be able to hold back my tears anymore, so I hurriedly sat down and buried my face into my hands. I didn’t want Brett to see me cry. “I’m sorry,” I said, still behind my hands.
He didn’t wait for me to try to explain myself anymore. “So let me make sure I have this straight: you snuck out of the house over the weekend to break into government property, then vandalized that property, lost your phone and lied to me that it was stolen, threw Mom in there to make me stop interrogating you about it, and then skipped half your classes today?” He paused, pacing back and forth, fuming. “And you’ve been sneaking out every weekend to smoke weed and vandalize property?” When I didn’t answer, he shouted, “LOOK AT ME!”
I slowly lifted my head to look at him through my tears.
Brett stared me straight in the eyes, studying me carefully to try and read me – was I really sorry? Were my tears genuine? (They were!) – and finally heaved a sigh, turning away. “I don’t trust you to be home alone right now, so you’re going to stay here while I finish up for the day.”
I’d hoped that he’d let me sit in the waiting room with my phone, so I could at least google ways to suck up to your brother so he doesn’t kill you. But, ha, yeah right. Wishful thinking. He wouldn’t let me touch my phone… he sequestered it in his briefcase and sat me in the corner like a little kid with my schoolbooks and orders to do homework. #SoEmbarrassing
I couldn’t focus at all, and my hands were shaking too much to allow me to write. I kept looking over towards Brett to see him angrily flipping through papers, or barking into the phone for someone to bring him a file. Then every time the receptionist or Michael came in, I shrunk in my seat, face hot as I attempted to blend into the background. Especially when it was Michael. I didn’t need the disappointed look he gave me when he came in. There was not even an ounce of pity for me.
The good thing about Brett throwing himself into work for a couple of hours was that his anger had subsided some by the time he told me it was time to go. And I guess another positive is that I was eventually able to finish all of my trig homework!
But now that we headed home together, the anxiety spread through my body again. My heart skipped a beat every time Brett started to talk, because I thought he was going to mention my punishment, which I wasn’t looking forward to hearing about. But instead, he was just asking things like “what do you want for dinner?” or “did you finish most of your homework?”
It was after dinner when he finally said: “No tv tonight. We’re going to have a serious talk.”
Any time that a “serious talk” was going to take place, a chill went down my spine. The last “serious talk” my brother and I had was when our mom was arrested and he told me that I was going to live with him.
He sent me to get ready for bed and to wait for him. And he still hadn’t given me my phone back, so after I was dressed in a t-shirt and my hello kitty pajama shorts, I just lay on the bed staring at the ceiling and waiting.
The boredom made me mindful of the sensations I was feeling — heart knocking against my ribcage, butterflies fluttering around in my tummy, the occasional cold shiver down my spine. I could hear everything that happened in the apartment: Brett answering a call, loading the dishwasher, footsteps near my door — that’s when it felt like my heart stopped. But he kept walking… going to the bathroom? Then he came back and tapped on my door. It wasn’t a loud tap, but I had worked myself up so much expecting him to come in that I still practically leaped into the air.
He pushed open the door and when I saw what he held in his hands, I flashed back to the moment he had threatened me after the Albany adventure: If I catch you sneaking out again or lying to me, I will bare your bottom and blister it with the bath brush, do you understand?
“Y-you weren’t kidding about the bath brush?” I sputtered. My heart began racing even faster, and a whine emerged from my lips without permission. It’d been a long time since I’d been spanked, and never with a bath brush. He had to be joking!
“Do I look like I was kidding?”
I shook my head, gulping.
He now paced in front of me, tall figure looming above, causing me to feel really small and vulnerable. “You’ve accumulated quite the list of infractions. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
He stopped pacing, shooting me a look that could kill. “Are you asking me if you’re sorry?”
I quickly answered, “no. I mean, I’m sorry. For real.”
“Sorry for what?”
I probably shouldn’t have hesitated, but I was really tired of lying. “I’m sorry for… sneaking out and lying to you about the phone…”
“And the other stuff?”
I courageously shook my head, fighting the urge to look at the floor. True anarchists don’t care about consequences; they look at their punisher without batting an eye, and say directly that they intend to smash the system and all the rules that go along with it.
“Goddammit, Madison,” he muttered, now pacing again. “You can’t just around breaking into places and smoking weed all the time. You’ll screw up your life. You could get arrested or hurt, don’t you care?”
“I’m not doing it ‘all the time’!”
He raised his eyebrows. “Really? Because those pictures I saw tell me a different story.”
I sighed. “But street art is my thing.”
“I don’t care! I don’t want you doing it again, end of story.”
Now I was glaring in his direction, arms folded and no longer even sorry about lying. “See? I knew you’d freak out which is why I didn’t tell you in the first place.”
He stopped dead in his tracks. “Excuse me?”
I shrunk into my bed a little. He was giving me that look again that made my tummy twist into knots. Why was I making this worse on myself?
“Stand up,” Brett ordered.
“I said stand up,” he repeated more firmly.
“It’s just that…”
In a swift second he grabbed my arm and pulled me off the bed, landing three hard pops with the bath brush to my barely protected bottom. I shrieked with each blow and then rubbed my butt furiously.
“When I tell you to do something, you will do it, do you understand me?”
“Yes, sir,” I said. I wasn’t accustomed to using the word “sir” but it seemed appropriate at that time. Brett was already taming my inner anarchist.
He sat on my bed then tugged at my pajama shorts, bringing them to my knees to where he could see everything. My face was hot; I felt so humiliated and helpless. But I kept my eyes on him, trying not to think about what was about to happen.
“Maybe it’s better for us to have a conversation like this,” Brett said.
I disagreed but kept my mouth shut.
“I can’t watch your every move or control everything you do. But I can assure you that if I find out you’re still sneaking out, or vandalizing property, or smoking weed, or any other thing on your long list of infractions, you’ll be right back in this position, waiting to get your ass blistered.”
I nodded, still trying to rub the sting out. If it’d hurt that much over my pjs, i could only imagine what it’d feel like on the bare. And I was about to find out…
Be brave, be brave, be brave… I begged myself. No crying!
Brett reached for my arm and pulled me over his knee, my upper body on the bed, feet on the floor. He rested the smooth, cool wooden bath brush on my bottom. I winced, trying to brace myself for the punishment.
“Brett…” I said in a weak voice, my pathetic attempt to delay the spanking as long as possible.
He knew me too well, though, and lifted the bath brush now, just in time for me to say, “I’m really sorry!” right before the first POP! landed. It echoed through my empty room, and my yelp followed, equally dramatic. “Owwww! Please, Brett,” I begged, looking back at him. “Please don’t do this…”
We locked eyes and he said, “It’s too late for that now… you should have thought about this beforehand.” And I watched as he lifted the bath brush again, crashing it down on my bottom directly below where the first swat had been. I cried out, squeezing onto the blankets for solace as a flurry of spanks followed.
“Owwwwieeee please Brett please!” I yelped.
“I don’t know where you get this idea that you don’t have to follow the rules, Madison,” he scolded between swats and my loud cries. “But the rules are there for a reason — you wouldn’t want someone to break in and vandalize your room, would you?”
“Nooooooo,” I howled, mostly because it was what he wanted to hear. In fact, my inner anarchist was hiding so far inside of me that she didn’t dare speak out while Brett was spanking me.
“And weed, Madison, really? You’re better than that.” He landed a few blows to my sit spots.
I howled and apologized once more, even though I wanted to scream that weed isn’t that bad! Instead, I buried my face into the bed, trying to remind myself this would all be over soon. I could handle it. I’m a big girl! I’m 16 for goodness sakes… some measly spanking wasn’t going to break me!
“You’re too young for that shit — I ought to make you write me an essay about the dangers of smoking pot.”
He was spanking at full force now, keeping up a steady rhythm. I wiggled and squirmed, reaching back every so often, still refusing to let any tears fall. “Brett! For real I’m sorry!” I shouted and howled in pain, reaching back to block him from delivering another. “Pleeeeease! No more!” I begged.
“Move your hand,” he ordered, and when I didn’t obey, popped me on the thigh to get my attention. It worked! I moved my hand back to grab onto the blankets, or maybe it was time to give up on this not crying thing and use my hands to catch my tears…
He gave a few more swats and then asked, “Are you thinking about what you did wrong?”
It’s like when you’re at the dentist and they start asking you questions. How did Brett really expect me to be able to answer him when he kept cracking that damn bath brush over my ass? I choked out a “yesss!” through my cries.
He paused for a moment to have me look at him again. I’d been trying to keep avoiding tears, and had done a pretty good job so far, considering how much pain I was in. But when I looked at Brett it was like for the first time I was legit empathizing with him. I could tell in his eyes that he was doing this out of what felt like duty, obligation. And hurt. That’s what caused me to break down.
“I don’t want you to end up like Mom,” he said softly.
“Brett…” but what was left to say? I had to be honest. “I’ll try to stop doing the illegal stuff. I don’t want to break a promise and say I’ll never do it again… but I promise I’ll try to stop.”
He studied my tearful eyes then nodded, satisfied with my answer. “You know what will happen if you do it again,” he said.
Now I nodded.
“Let’s not have this talk again.”
He finally allowed me to get up and replace my pjs over my throbbing backside (I almost didn’t want to put them back on!). Then he did something I hadn’t expected — he brought me in for a tight hug, letting me cry into his chest as he rubbed my back.
I won’t say that I stopped doing street art after that, nor will I say that I never got spanked again. But at least one good thing came out of it — for the first time in years, it felt like I actually bonded with someone in my family, and it was nice.
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