Chapter 21 – Chloe’s Back to Bad Habits

If you would like a soundtrack to go along with this, check out my playlist on Spotify.  This chapter’s songs: “Reptilla,” “Teach Me To Fight,” “Cigarette Duet,” and “Stolen Dance.”

Previous: Chapter 20 – Violet’s Good Girl Session

I changed the ending in Chapter 19, so you might want to check it out before reading ahead.

—–

“You look exhausted,” Toby said as we sorta speed-walked next to each other on the track.  “Are you hydrated?  Have you been able to keep any food down?”

“Yeah, I’m better physically now but couldn’t sleep.  Nightmares.”  I’d spent another night tossing and turning, unable to get any rest.  At some point I gave up and chain-smoked on the fire escape while my thoughts fought over what to do, which I currently regretted because even our slower pace winded me.

“Dreams are a reflection of our unconscious mind… stressed?”

“Fuck work.”  My brain was too sleepy to think before speaking, so I needed to change the subject.  Knowing Toby, he’d figure everything out with only a couple of questions.  “How’s your preparation for the training in DC this weekend?  I can’t believe you’re here today… always so busy!”  

“Your preference for deflecting may be part of the problem.  Talking out stressors relieves the subconscious and promotes a more restful sleep.”

My heart skipped a beat at his stern-ish tone, and I glanced over at him.  Toby really wanted me to be honest with him.  “There’s just a lot going on.  I’m halfway through my contract with Gabe and I dunno if I should renew or not.  But I legit want to know about your training.”   

“What are the pros and cons of staying versus leaving?”

“You expect me to produce a list right now???”  He wasn’t entertaining my attempts to control the conversation, which provoked nervousness and excitement at the same time.  “Pros: the salary, my co-workers are cool, everyone likes me.  Cons: I kinda suck at the job, we don’t even know if Gabe will decide to keep me, and some clients are horrible and disgusting…”

Toby cut me off.  “Something happened with a client.  What was it?”

I almost stopped in the middle of the track, not appreciating his psychic abilities.  “He’s a creepy old guy who was hitting on me…”

“Seems deeper, but I’ll entertain that.  What did he say that bothered you?”

My entire face burned red, not just from the sun beaming down.  For a moment I considered what to disclose, eventually settling on, “I don’t wanna talk about it.”

Now Toby absorbed himself deep in thought, psychoanalyzing me to figure out how far to push.  His methods of extraction were more subtle than Izaak’s, more intuitive.  We sped up a little to make the silence less awkward and jogged nearly a full lap when he finally spoke.  “Did you have nightmares as a child?”

“Oh yeah, all the time.  Especially when my parents split… but that was probably because my mom put me in the middle of their drama…”  The gnawing in my stomach at that memory almost made me sick again.  “But eventually my dreams became more useful, gave me solutions to my school problems or whatever.”

“What was your mother like?”

Another topic I preferred to avoid, but at least she didn’t affect my life anymore, and it was better than questions about Winters.  I had repressed my memories of her, so it took a minute to figure out a response.  “Unpredictable.  There were probably enjoyable moments, but I only remember the constant fighting.  Her yelling.  Threatening to leave.  Until one day she finally did and had the nerve to think I’d join her.  I always liked my dad more, anyway.”

“Why’s that?”

“He spoiled me.  We had a lot of fun together…”

“Speed it up, ladies!” Izaak hollered with a smile as he lapped us.

His voice snapped me out of my thoughts.  “My dad just gave me more positive attention,” I said in a hurry, remembering to be careful about how much I disclose.  Toby was too easy to talk to… I didn’t need to get attached.  “Now I’ve talked enough.  It’s your turn to tell me about the training.”

“For the nightmares to stop, you’ll have to unpack that time during your childhood.  If you want someone to listen, I’m here for you.  And do more art, less working.”  

I glanced over at him, blushing slightly at him continuing to ramble about me.  But warm fuzzies bounced in my chest because he genuinely wanted to help.  With a smile, I thanked him, and then he indulged me in small talk about his weekend training.

x-x-x-x

During the subway ride to work, my body relaxed as I replayed the conversation with Toby in my mind.  Somehow he’d gotten me to reveal a lot more than I’d allowed myself with anyone else, probably ever.  I hadn’t even opened up to this extreme within myself, and I was uncertain how I felt about the psychiatrist’s abilities.

Except curious.  

How would Toby be as a spanker?  The question lingered as I envisioned a life where he convinced me to be totally authentic with him as he asked the questions most people avoided.  Those penetrating eyes, reading into every word and micro-expression.  How long would it take him to discover my true identity?  

I was so distracted by my fantasies that I missed my train stop and was ten minutes late to work. Fortunately, when I strolled into Gabe’s office, he was caught up in an argument with Violet and didn’t notice the time.

“How the fuck else do you expect me to solve it?  Tell him, Clo.” 

“Tell him what?” I asked, dropping my boss’s important mail on his desk. 

“That I need to go to Washington to interview this potential witness.  It’s the only way to figure out my case.”

Gabe shook his head.  “Why don’t you make a phone call like a normal person?”

“That won’t work, her calls are monitored, she won’t give up any intel.  C’mon, Mr. Specter.”  She stuck out her hand with a laugh.  “Let’s get that company card, I’ll extract the info, then case closed.”

“You’re crazy if you think I’d let you have a company card after seeing your debt.”

“Do you have a better idea?  Traveler’s checks?  Prepaid giftcard?”  Violet mentioned some other ideas while Gabe scanned me up and down.

“I’ll give you permission to go under two conditions.”  He looked back at Violet and nodded towards me.  “Take her with you, and you both agree that if you spend over budget, you’ll each earn a stroke with the cane for every penny. In front of the others at our next meeting.”

“Even better,” she said, winking at me.  “You’re cool with that, right Clo?”

Now Gabe looked at me, too, and I nodded with fake confidence.  Getting caned by my boss sounded like the scariest, most awkward situation ever!  And what would Izaak (and Toby?!) say?

“I’m serious.  Not a cent over budget or your ass will pay.”  His scowl made my tummy flip flop.

“Yes, Sir.  Jeez, you don’t gotta be such a hardass.”  

As Gabe gave me assignments for the day, I noticed a tickle of excitement in my chest.  Maybe our trip will coincide with Toby’s!  

Sleepiness mixed with fantasies about touring DC with my running buddy had me fucking up my work.  Fortunately, Gabe was mostly in meetings, so didn’t yell at me for it (yet), and Violet offered to do the trip planning, sensing that I wouldn’t do it correctly (she was probably right).  

“Yo, the flight is early on Monday.  You should come crash with me and Molly this weekend.” 

I looked up from my computer (where I’d been checking out sights in DC, not actually working) to see Violet with her messenger bag over her shoulder, ready to leave.  My heart raced every time I saw her, wondering how close she was to making the connection with Winters.  “Sure.”  

She grinned, flashing me a thumbs-up, seemingly still unaware that I robbed and framed her client.  “You can help me think of a cover.  I bet you’re a brilliant actress…”

If only she knew… 

“This kid is so young and prolly easy to fool.  I might play a social worker.  I’ll have to find a believable fake ID…”  Violet rambled on for a minute and I struggled to listen, noticing my anxiety for the first time since morning.  It wasn’t a voice in my head anymore — thoughts of Toby had totally drowned that out.  Now it was just a nagging sensation in my chest, zapping around, preparing me to run like hell.  If only I could rip off the bandaid, I’d breathe again.  “See you tomorrow!” Violet finally said, waving goodbye and sauntering out of the office.  

x-x-x-x

I took out the almost half-empty pack of cigarettes, fingers shaking as I popped one into my mouth.  Sitting on the fire escape reminded me of that first month with Izaak.  It seemed like forever ago.  Now I was less courageous about smoking while he was home — luckily tonight he was still out with his community football youth group.  

After this pack, I’ll not get anymore, I promised myself, noticing the guilt once my anxiety simmered.  I just need it to stay calm.

Even though I’d scoured the internet for my online presence and gotten rid of everything, I couldn’t shake the suspicion that there was still evidence out there, or Winters would eventually recognize me, or I would slip up in conversation with Violet.  What if I steer her in the wrong direction during our trip?

I must’ve smoked another two cigarettes as I imagined ways to con Violet, unsatisfied with them all.  Then I resorted to fantasizing about Toby again, wondering how he’d deal with me if he knew I was smoking.  As I hid the pack in my bag, burying it under everything else, I imagined myself over Toby’s lap.  Would he bare my bottom or demand me to do it?  Would he spank with his hand?  No way he could hit as hard as Izaak… would it even hurt?  Or would he use other punishments?  Is he into doing embarrassing things like Gabe?  I bet my crying wouldn’t affect him, but would he give in to sexual advances?  The questions kept coming as I changed into my pjs and brushed my teeth, right in time for Izaak to get home.  

For the first moment all week, I slipped into little space, excited to see my roommate and jumping up to latch onto him like a koala.  

Izaak laughed in surprise.  “I’m glad you are no longer sick,” he said, patting me on the back so I’d let go.  He was sweaty and smelly and wanted to shower, promising that we would watch tv and snuggle when he finished.

Waiting on the sofa gave me too much idle time, so the nicotine cravings returned.  And being in little space was a deadly combination because it provided me with the genius idea of sneaking another smoke.  Izaak always took eons in the shower, so I’d be safe… and if not, at least I’d receive extra cuddles after the spanking.

A mix of disappointment and relief engulfed me when I crawled back through the window and noticed the bathroom door still shut.  Izaak’s off-key singing accompanied the patter of the water falling, but the song was almost over.  It gave me barely enough time to suck on a mint and spray a dab of perfume.

He emerged in a tight T-shirt and basketball shorts, groaning in pleasure about how refreshing the shower was.  Before turning on the tv, we made small talk for a few minutes, both seated on the couch, enjoying our lighthearted conversation.  Then there was a brief pause, and Izaak’s face straightened, turning serious.  “Kiddo, have you been smoking again?”

I blushed, suddenly regretting my earlier decision and sinking into the sofa with my knees to my chest.  “W-wha… Why are you asking me that?”

“I can smell it.  Has Violet been badly influencing you?” 

“No…”  My voice was almost inaudible, so I cleared my throat and sat up, trying to appear remorseful.  “I’m sorry.” 

“Don’t slip back into bad habits.  Where are your cigarettes?”

My eyes watered and lower lip poked out in a pout, but I didn’t need to be told twice. Reaching in my bag, I grabbed the pack of Marlboro and handed it over.

Izaak peeked inside the box.  “You’ve smoked 13.  When did you buy this?”

I squirmed, avoiding eye contact until he commanded me to respond.  “Yesterday…”

He sighed and shook his head, looking away finally.  “Is this why you were sick?  Because you wanted to smoke again?”

“No…”

Eyebrows raised, now his expression shifted, as if he noticed something was up with me.  “What’s going on, kiddo?  What do you need to tell me?”  All defenses were down as he lifted my chin so I could see his earnest eyes.  

A part of me sensed he knew everything and was waiting for my confession.  “It’s work,” I said, chewing on my fingernail.  Is it time to come clean?  “One of the clients… he…”

His stupid phone started buzzing, cutting me off (like always!).  The sound gave me a flashback to childhood… my parents fighting, Dad’s phone vibrating so forcefully I’d thought it would wiggle off the table.  

“You don’t love us.  You’ll never choose your daughter and me over your schemes.”

“That’s not true.”  He reached for the device.

“You’re gonna answer that in the middle of our conversation?  Proving my point.  You only care about pulling cons.”  She took out a cigarette from a maroon leather case, lighting it in his face.

“Nancy… please.  I promised I would leave the crime life.”

“Fucking liar.”  She continued throwing swear words at him while packing her bag.

The vibrations stopped, so now my cries could be heard.  “You’re scaring Chloe.  C’mon, you don’t want to upset her.  Calm down and let me fix the mess I’ve made.”

“It’s too late.”  She zipped up the suitcase and gave me a look that could kill.  “Go pack your clothes.”

“Stop yelling at our little girl.  Princess, can you give your mother and me a minute?”

I stood frozen in place, now crying louder as the phone started vibrating again.

“You know what?  Keep her.  It’ll teach you some responsibility.  Unless you end up shipping her to your mother’s.  But not my problem anymore.”  Then she lifted the suitcase and departed, never to return.

I was so lost in my memory I hadn’t realized Izaak left to answer the call in his bedroom.  It was probably someone from work — they called nightly around this hour.  The universe’s reminder that his career is more important than me.  If I tell Izaak, he’ll turn me in.  I can’t handle prison… I won’t get as lucky as Sage since I don’t have the same money for a decent lawyer who’ll get me a deal.  Because I’d definitely lose my job with Gabe.

Ugh.  I need to figure out what misleading info to implant into Violet’s head during our trip.  A flash of my nightmare appeared — the photoshopped pictures.  What if I find somebody to frame?  

I was trying to develop a plan when Izaak returned apologizing, a neutral expression so I couldn’t decipher how the call went.  Regardless, my need to confess had disappeared.

“So one of the clients….” he said, now fully focused on me again.

“Was being really creepy with me.”  I said it in a hurry, turning away as my face reddened.

“Did he sexually harass you?”

His direct question made me blush even more.  “No… I mean, I dunno.”

“You need to report it to Gabe or Human Resources.”  Izaak’s tone was abrupt, but caring.  He was in problem-solving mode.

But no way could I tell anyone!  “But…”

“If you don’t, I’ll discuss it with him tomorrow at the meeting.”

“No!” I half-shouted, knowing that appearing on Winters’ radar was the last thing I needed.  “I mean, I’ll talk to Gabe.  Please don’t blab, it would be too embarrassing.”  Now I was totally mortified, remembering my boss’s caning threat.  

“I won’t as long as you fulfill your promise.”  I nodded, chewing on my fingernail again as Izaak’s body softened.  “So that’s why you were sick, eh?  Avoiding work?”

I squirmed, nodding solemnly.

There was a tense silence, then Izaak sighed.  “If you’re trying to make me feel sorry for you, it worked.”

Now, looking up, I gave him hopeful eyes.  

He pulled me to sit on his lap.  “If someone mistreats you, please speak up immediately.  It’s unnecessary for you to deal with harassment alone, especially if it leads you to return to this nasty habit.”

My tummy twisted into knots.  I hated myself for not being as honest of a friend as Izaak deserved.  “I’m sorry.”  It was the most sincere apology I’d ever spoken.  Then my little space came out and I snuggled in closer, head resting on his chest.  “Since you feel bad for me, I don’t get the hairbrush, right?”  I poked my lower lip out and batted my eyelashes.

“You know the penalty, kiddo.”

My body quivered as I gave a weak nod, knowing that Izaak was a man true to his word.  I stayed latched onto him a few more seconds until the pit in my stomach motivated me to slide off his lap.  Head down, I shuffled to fetch the plastic paddle hairbrush from the bathroom drawer.

When I came back, Izaak lips curved slightly up in satisfaction.  

Just tell him, rang Sage’s voice in my mind as I handed him the brush.

He will hate you if you do, said another voice, whose tone sounded more like my mom.  

Ouch.  Why did Toby have to open that box earlier?

“You have done very well with not smoking, I’m proud of you for the progress you’ve made.  Get back on track with it.  Talk to Molly if you need.  She has helped me with a lot and will assist you, too, if you ask.”

“What if I tell her instead of Gabe about… you know…”

Izaak’s brows furrowed, and I gave a genuinely pathetic look.  “I’d rather you communicate with someone from your office, but I trust Molly.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.  At least I could make my friend swear to secrecy.  One less problem to worry about.

“I will give her the heads up tomorrow that you’ll set up a time to chat privately.”

Part of me wanted to argue that I didn’t need him making therapy appointments for me, but I glanced at the hairbrush and decided instead to tell him about the conversation with Violet about staying over the weekend.  “I’ll talk to Molly then.”

Izaak insisted, though, knowing my tendency to chicken out.  And his tone was so firm that I kept in my sigh and eye roll.

When neither of us had more to say, Izaak reached for my pajama shorts.  I chewed on my lower lip as he tugged them down, then helped me over his lap.  His thighs weren’t as rigid as usual, and he didn’t seem as confident, more resolved-feeling… like he was obligated to carry out the punishment.  Classic “this hurts me more than it hurts you.”  He was a rule follower, no exceptions.  

Reasons I can’t tell him about Winters.

“How many swats have you earned?” he asked as my panties slid down to my knees.

I squirmed, peeking up at him and cowering in shame. “130,” I said, more like a mutter.  

He still felt sorry for me, though, because he didn’t force me to speak more clearly.  “Give me your hand.”

With a whine, I buried my face in the couch cushion and stuck my right arm back, comforted when Izaak’s fingers wrapped around mine.

He skipped the lecture, landing the first barrage of smacks more mild than normal, but still at the same steady pace.  The plastic clapped against my skin with a loud POP! that echoed through the space and caused me to flinch every time.  

“Why are you getting this spanking, kiddo?” Izaak asked, delivering the next set of swats a little harder.

With a whine, I said, “for smoking!” 

“You also need to trust me enough to express what’s happening with you.  If you had spoken up, we would have found an alternate coping strategy.”  The spanking continued, now up to his usual intensity and causing me to cry out every so often.

“I’m s-sorryyyy!  I’ll come to you next time!”

“If you can’t discuss it with me, at least lean on Molly or Toby, or hell, even Violet and Gabe.  We’re here for you.”

His words punched me in the gut, sucking all the air out of me until a sob erupted.  My fingers gripped Izaak’s muscular hand tighter as I bawled, letting out all my pent-up emotions from the week.  I allowed myself to feel safe under his authority.  

My thoughts stopped, and I focused on the meditative pattern of Izaak’s swats.  Heat radiated from my bottom and tears flowed freely, but it didn’t bother me, almost as if I were outside of myself, watching the hairbrush bounce against my rosy cheeks from above.

“Smoking is prohibited.”  He punctuated each word with a hearty swat.  “Do you understand?”

I lay limply over his lap, sniffling.  “Y-yes, s-sir.”

“Last ten.”  They came down milder than expected, but I guess he realized he’d already driven his point home.  Once finished, he replaced my panties and pjs, then lifted me to sit on his lap.  I winced at the warmth in my backside as he wrapped his arms around me, not giving me enough time to wipe my tears away before squeezing me against his chest.  

I burrowed in, eyes closed as I listened to Izaak’s thumping heart, reveling in the light, floaty sensations. My sobs had died down to the occasional sniffle, but I stayed curled up in his embrace, soothed by the rise and fall of his breathing. It was the safest I’d felt all week; I needed to hold on to this moment.  


Chapter 22 – Molly Gets a Cat


6 thoughts on “Chapter 21 – Chloe’s Back to Bad Habits

  1. Gosh, I love your stories!!! I’ve pretty much been around since the beginning, not that means much, but you’ve really grown in your writing. I have a split opinion over here… I’m half tempted to tell you to hurry up and get to the good part, I can NOT wait to know what happens!!!! But on the other hand, I love your writing and stories so much I don’t want to rush you and end it any sooner….. ugh!!!! Anyway, just wanted to mention all that and say hey!

    Alex

    Liked by 1 person

  2. thank you! 🥰🥰 I’m really glad you’re enjoying it 💜. Don’t worry, I don’t think the story is ending anytime soon 😂 … I have like 60 chapters planned already (and am thinking about a ‘sequel’ where they basically all live together hehe)

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