Previous: Chapter 21 – Chloe’s Back to Bad Habits
“I need a favor.”
The flat tone sent a chill down my spine that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. “Sure, anything!” I said with a forced smile, holding the door open as I waited for Toby to catch up with me.
I’d been avoiding him since the spanking a week and a half ago, hurrying out of our office each night before his last appointment finished. The punishment had been helpful the day I received it — for the first time in ages, I’d made a concrete plan to get my work completed. But after the sting wore off and loneliness crept in, my motivation plummeted. I needed Adam to give me more attention and act like he cares. Toby wouldn’t understand, though. He’d just lecture me about coping skills for my abandonment issues.
“Hindsight, this may have been a terrible idea…” Toby said as we headed towards the train station. “I’m bringing Vanessa to the meeting tomorrow to discipline her for the altercation last weekend. Will you prepare Gabe and/or Violeta? Whoever you believe needs the information.”
The vision of a Violet-Vanessa standoff made me laugh out loud. “Oh, goodness… A disaster waiting to happen. Best to tell Gabe. You could just message him yourself, ya know.”
“Perhaps I’ll do that one day, but tonight I have plans.” My friend gave a crooked smile as we turned the corner.
“Where ya goin’?”
“Checking out a street art exhibition.” He didn’t give me the opportunity to ask for details. “Thanks for taking care of warning Gabe. Your astute observation of my evasion has been noted. Next time I’ll contact him directly.” We walked down the stairs, swiping our cards to get on the uptown train platform. “What about you? Where are you headed?”
“I’m getting a cat!” The thought had been on my mind for days. Since Bonkers passed away a few years ago, I’d been too afraid (and guilty-feeling) to attach to a new pet, but now I finally felt ready. And I needed the extra cuddles at night. But this conversation didn’t need to be about me, because that increased the chances of Toby finding out about paperwork, so I resorted to gossip. “Violet thinks there’s something going on with you and Chloe.”
“She won’t shut up about it.”
I giggled. “So you do like her! It makes sense… totally your type… mysterious and artistic. Awww! You’d make a cute couple.”
Toby shook his head as the train screeched to a halt in front of us, door bursting open. “Too soon. I haven’t discussed it with Izaak.”
“I’m sure he won’t mind… they’re super platonic.” We waited as the cart emptied, then Toby motioned for me to go ahead of him. Luckily, there were plenty of vacant seats so I plopped down, watching as he held the door for a running woman before coming to sit at my side.
“Sometimes there’s more than what meets the eye. Anyway, it’s part of my moral code.”
“Bros before hos!” I said with a giggle. “I can’t get a good read on Chloe yet. She seems nice and gives off positive vibes, though. How do you see her?”
“Troubled.” That was also his type, but I didn’t say that out loud. “People pleaser. Low tolerance of discomfort. Unstable sense of self. Avoidant attachment style.”
I hung onto Toby’s words, captivated by his intelligence and how easy it is for him to read others. All I’d known about Chloe was from Izaak, but his judgments aren’t nearly as thorough. “Do you know anything about her childhood? I heard her dad’s a criminal… and she doesn’t talk to her mom. I bet she has abandonment issues… and her grandmother passed right before she moved here. That’s probably where the avoidance comes from.”
Toby interjected. “How does it feel, psychoanalyzing your friends?”
I stopped rambling for a moment and glanced at him, blushing. “It’s kinda fun… and harmless.”
With a nod, he looked away, lost in his thoughts as the train’s lights flickered. “I think you’re correct. Her submissive reactions to Izaak indicate fear of rejection. She tests him to a certain point for a reaction. But her biggest transgressions go unnoticed because she’s a genius at hiding.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Micro-expressions. Her communication patterns. She’s worse than you about turning the conversation around on someone. Also, notice how she adapts to each person when conversing. You’re nice to everyone, I’m dry, Violeta is annoying, but Chloe? She subtly conforms to each personality, so it’s unnoticed by the untrained eye. Do you know what kind of criminal her father was?”
“Hmm… can’t remember. Not a murderer or anything. Nothing dramatic.”
“You need to lay off the weed, it’s destroying your memory,” Toby said, causing my tummy to drop. He glanced out the window as we sped past the 77th St. station, then down at the map on his phone. “I wonder if he’s a con man. She’s textbook child of a narcissist.”
“Yikes… that’s a bold claim… you really think so?”
He smiled, putting his device away and standing. “We’re out of time for now, next stop is mine. We’ll continue the analysis another day.” As the train slowed to a stop, Toby delivered a kiss to my cheek and told me to behave.
I waved goodbye, thankful (yet sad) he hadn’t asked about my paperwork.
Later that night, I scrolled through my emails as I laid curled up on the bed with my newest roommate: an orange, black, and white feline I’d adopted from the shelter named Crackers. Even though I rarely worried about getting in trouble at my clinic job, my heart stopped for a minute when I scanned over an email threatening to have my pay docked for overdue paperwork.
Hot tears burned my eyes. Ugh… I should’ve talked to Toby… He would’ve motivated me. But what if he was serious about spanking me in front of everyone?
Instead of taking any chances, I wrote Adam a text. It was a shot in the dark, but hopefully he’d read my pleading tone. Can you please come over? And discipline me?
My heart raced as I sent the message, thinking about my ‘family’. Good thing Toby’s threat happened in private. If Gabe knew, he would’ve already figured out about my slacking, and my puppy eyes wouldn’t be able to save me from humiliation tomorrow. The image made me shiver as I took a hit off my vape pen.
Part of me missed having an official spanko relationship with Gabe. After he broke up with his vanilla girlfriend, I’d wanted to swoop in to be under his wing again, but had been so caught up in Adam. Now our honeymoon phase was over and my boyfriend was always busy with work.
I shouldn’t have been so quick to hook Violet and Gabe back up.
That thought instantly made me feel bad. Don’t be selfish. She needs him more.
My phone buzzed in my hand and I looked down, hoping for Adam but pleasantly surprised to see it was Gabe.
Still on for 8pm?
A hollow ball crept into my tummy. I’d totally forgotten about our regular monthly meeting — something he’d instituted for us ten years ago when I felt neglected because of his ridiculously busy work schedule. It was even written in a signed contract: Every final day of the month (so I’d never be alone on my birthday), 8pm at Gabe’s apartment, indefinitely, spanking as needed. Dammit, I shouldn’t have forgotten. Now I can’t even go because what if Adam answers? Ugh… I hate myself so much sometimes.
The front door slammed, and Crackers woke up with a startle.
“I’m goin’ on a trip!” Violet called from the entryway, then invited herself into my room, instantly noticing my energy. “What’s up? You about to cry? Watchin’ a sad movie?”
“It’s nothing,” I said in a rush. “Just work shit.”
As the furry head perked up, Violet jumped and put a hand over her heart. “The fuck?…. you got a cat? Does Vic know?”
My cheeks flushed as my tummy sank. The thought of telling him hadn’t even crossed my mind. “Not yet…” I took another puff off my vape pen and glanced back down at my phone.
Sry, need to cancel…can we hang out tomorrow after the meeting? I wrote back to Gabe.
Crackers’ eyes followed my friend, and when Violet picked up her toy from my dresser, the cat’s pupils dilated and butt rose with excitement. The ribbon swept across the floor, making little designs until the multicolored feline pounced.
I checked my phone to see if Adam had responded to my message, disappointed that he left me on read. The internal voice that gives him excuses was silent, letting my disappointment and bitterness take over. And then there was the sadness that I’d missed my appointment with Gabe, on top of anxiety about getting my work done before the approaching deadline. “You should get Adderall again and share with me.”
Violet stopped twirling and Crackers chewed on the ribbon, satisfied at winning. “It’s been a minute since you asked me for drugs. You good?” There was genuine concern there, and if I had told her everything, she would’ve gladly accompanied me to kick Adam’s ass.
“Yeah, just so much work having two jobs, ya know? It’ll help me get caught up.”
“I got you, sis,” Violet promised, now distracting Crackers by tapping her foot until the cat pounced on it, fangs sinking into Violet’s toes. “Ayyyy, pinche gata.” She kicked a little until her sock came off, the cat’s claws and teeth still attached. “You love saving all the strays. If you ever buy a house, make sure it has like ten bedrooms for everyone you bring home.”
“That’s the dream,” I said, sucking on my vape pen as I imagined decorating a gigantic Victorian-style house with our family.
“Wait… aren’t you meeting with Gabe tonight? Ooooo you’re gonna be in trouble. You ain’t supposed to smoke before hangin’ out with him.”
I shrugged. “Cancelled. Did anything happen with you and Izaak yesterday?”
Violet took the bait, now rambling about the shape of his biceps instead of worrying about me. Engaging in that conversation was easy, especially since she played with Crackers again, barely focused on my emotional state. Not that I was paying attention to her, either. My mind preferred to drift into the past…
“You’re late,” Gabe bellowed when he swung open the door.
I was already crying, but his narrowed eyebrows brought on another sob and I covered my face with trembling fingers. “I’m sorr-ryyyy.” Words were hard to speak, interrupted by my sniffles and hiccups.
“Those tears won’t work on me this time, Young Lady. Get in here.” His tone was only slightly raised, but sharp and commanding.
I wiped my eyes as I shuffled inside his apartment, ignoring the tears that steadily streamed down my cheeks. “I-I’m sorry-y….” My body ached, shoulders tense from all the Adderall, lungs exhausted from smoking too much.
The door slammed shut, causing me to jump, but soon my anxiety was soothed as I felt the pressure from Gabe’s hand against my back, nudging me forward. I stood there for a moment, fixated on the warmth of his touch, then allowed him to lead me inside.
“You better have a good explanation for arriving 3 hours and 23 minutes late to our scheduled appointment.”
Standing in the middle of the room, still crying, I chewed on my fingernail as Gabe towered over me, arms folded. My eyes stayed staring at the floor, fidgeting as I wondered what to say. Words wouldn’t form correctly, so tears came out instead.
Gabe sighed and I could sense his annoyance with my lack of response, on top of all the anger at me being so late. “I can already tell that you’re high, and we made an agreement. You broke your promise.”
Another sob and I did something Gabe hadn’t expected — I reached out and latched onto him in a hug. He wasn’t a huggy person, so his body was rigid at first, but I held on tight, squeezing as if begging him not to leave. My face pressed against his chest, soaking his thin white undershirt. Finally, he softened and patted my back like I was a baby. I got lost in the springy after-smell of his soap and the hypnotic rhythm of his attempts to soothe me until my crying had stopped long enough to speak.
“So you’ve said.”
“School is stressful. NYU was right to reject me, I’m so stupid I can’t even fucking pass community college. I should just drop out.”
Gabe pulled me away from my comfortable spot and made me look him in the eyes. “Break that habit of shit-talking yourself. You’re not a quitter, and you are not dropping out, am I clear?”
“It’s too hard and I can’t keep up because I’m too undisciplined and everyone’s too busy to help me and that’s fine because I know I should be able to do it on my own but I can’t and I’m so lonely and overwhelmed.” I started bawling again, and he released my chin so that I could bury my face back into his chest. “What was I thinking moving to New York? I’ll never make it.”
“Are you done?” he asked, and the annoyance in his tone made a few more tears slide down my cheeks as I nodded. “I’m not interested in your excuses. The topic of discussion is your failure to arrive on time and sober.”
“Let me finish,” he snapped, and I buried my face further into his chest. “If you treat school like you’ve treated our appointments, it’s no wonder you aren’t doing well. Be more responsible.”
His words made my tummy twist into triple knots, ashamed at all I’d done lately, and I squeezed more tears out, wondering if I could speak now. A few more seconds of silence and Gabe plucked me away from him. I dared peek up, frightened at his scowl, which set me off again. “Do you hate me?”
“Molly, I’m frustrated with your behavior, and honestly, I’m a little worried about the drugs.”
Now it was slightly easier to face him, wiping my eyes and sniffling. A heavy pit formed in my tummy, but also a warmth washed over my body. I hung my head. “I didn’t want to upset you.”
“Are you sure?”
I glanced up for a second. “What do you mean?”
“Were you testing me?”
My natural response was, of course not! But before saying it out loud, I questioned that thought. My mind went back to my poor decisions of the day and… the striking realization made my face turn bright red. “I… um… maybe.” I bit my lower lip and turned away, too scared to see his reaction.
But he reached for my chin and forced me to look at him. He wasn’t mad, but like… frustrated and worried, I guess. “When you test me on serious rules, you will regret it.”
I gulped. “What are the serious rules?”
“Don’t fuck up anybody’s career, especially your own. Don’t put yourself in danger, which includes abusing drugs. Have you been using anything besides weed?”
“You know in my psych class we learned that it’s better to make rules positive, like instead of ‘don’t do it’ you should find something to strive towards. Like, ‘do…..’ whatever it is. You just gotta get creative sometimes…” I trailed off, noticing his humorless expression.
“Do answer my question.”
Oof… my tummy. “Yes,” I said, back into pouty, almost-crying mode.
“Let’s hear it.”
“I don’t wanna….” My lower lip quivered as I thought about the punishment I was about to receive.
Tired of my shit, Gabe barked, “Corner, now!”
My slight whine was met with narrowed eyebrows, so I obeyed.
“You can lose those pants and panties. You won’t be needing them anytime soon.”
The pit of dread grew as I unbuttoned and unzipped my jeans, looking over my shoulder at him with pleading eyes before pushing them and my panties down. I stepped out and kicked my clothes to the side, hyper-aware that Gabe was watching every move. My heart sped up as I shuffled towards the wall, waiting for the reprimand…
“Fold those neatly and put them on the sofa. Don’t be lazy, that’s what has gotten you into this mess.”
I blushed, doing as told, then returned to the corner. My throat was dry, body trembling.
“Hands on your head.” I could hear his footsteps getting closer. “What did you tell me you were looking for when we first met?”
A hearty swat landed on my bottom. “That is not a sufficient answer, young lady, and you know it.”
With a sad face, I glimpsed back at him and remembered aloud. “I was looking for someone who cares about me and not just here to beat my ass.”
“And how did I respond?”
“That you don’t allow yourself to get close to many people, so if you let me in, we’re family.”
Gabe didn’t speak for a moment, drowning me with guilt. He leaned down and prompted me to look in his eyes. His brow crinkled in worry. “We are family. We take care of each other. Never test when it comes to your well-being, am I clear?”
He walked away, and I sniffled, letting fresh tears stream down my cheeks. My body felt warm and fuzzy, but I was also confused about what I had done that convinced him to care about me. And I was frightened at how awful my punishment would be. Especially when he called out for me.
I turned around to see Gabe standing next to a straight-backed armless chair, hands on his hips. Across from him was the coffee table, which held a folded up T-shirt, his tawse, and a bathbrush. I shivered as I crept forward, shyly covering myself.
“Come on, we don’t have all night,” Gabe said, snapping his fingers at me.
With my best puppy face, I sped up my shuffle, finally arriving in front of him, hanging my head.
“It’s pills again, isn’t it?”
Heart thumping against my ribcage, I gave a slight nod only to have my chin tilted up towards him. Gabe’s hazel eyes were watery with concern. I blinked away more tears.
“You better not be doing anything heavier than Adderall? Because if I find out…”
“No, nothing else,” I said, not wanting to hear his tangent. There was a tugging in my chest begging me to blurt out excuses, but I didn’t listen to it.
Gabe sighed in relief, pulling me in for a quick hug. “You’re too young with too much potential to head down that path.” His tone made it seem like this was a familiar feeling for him, worrying about someone on drugs. My therapist-brain had so many questions, but the window to his emotions closed as quickly as it’d opened. Gabe cleared his throat and pulled me back away from him. “Tonight you will receive a good, old-fashioned spanking over my knee, first with my hand, and then with the bathbrush. Then you’ll get ready for bed without whining, because we’ll have to finish the rest of your punishment in the morning when your head is more sober, so the gravity of your actions sinks in.”
I squirmed, fidgeting from one foot to the other, trying to distract myself with happy thoughts (it wasn’t working). Gabe had never spanked me over his lap before, advising me from the beginning that he preferred the power dynamic of towering over his spankee. I’d responded that even though I loved the closeness of being over the knee, power dynamics are hott, too! But why did he decide to use this position now?
My chin was turned to force me to lock eyes with Gabe again. “You will not use any type of drug before meeting with me, am I clear?”
“Not even weed? Are you serious? For how long?”
“Indefinitely. I will draft a new contract and, if broken, the penalty will be severe: a fully nude caning. This is your warning.”
Desiring to protest, I squirmed in rebellion, clamping my mouth shut so I wouldn’t say something I’d regret. Nudity and canings were my only limits. If he threatened that, I must’ve really crossed a line this time… “Yes, Sir.”
Gabe sat and guided me over his lap, circling my waist. I reached my hand back to grab onto his sweaty palm. Just as he gripped me tight, the first swat landed on my bare bottom…
Violet’s fingers snapped in front of my face. “Yo, are you even listenin’? You’re so spacey lately. Is Adam disciplining you anymore? Am I gonna have to tattle on you?”
I blushed, secretly desiring that she would.