When Nate left I realized that while he’d been talking, all I’d been able to concentrate on was his voice. I was so busy listening to the sound of it that I hadn’t heard everything he’d said, but I got the impression he’d told me already the day before, so what was there to worry about?
The morning passed fairly uneventfully. I played with Mason and Taylor in the living room after I found them arguing about a toy, and then I put the TV on for them to watch while I prepared lunch.
I was doing this!
At lunchtime, Nate returned from his work.
“How have you been getting on?” he asked.
“Izzy played jungles with us!” Taylor said.
“She was a lion!” Mason said. “But I was an alligator.”
“Sounds like you had a great time. I think Miss Sutton is doing a great job taking care of you two, but I’m wondering if she’ll find the time to clean my kitchen this afternoon?” He smiled and raised an eyebrow rakishly. “It was on your list of things to do this morning but it sounds like you were busy.”
I couldn’t help thinking he wasn’t happy that I’d spent the morning playing with my charges. Isn’t that what I was here for? To look after them? It was only my first day and I didn’t want to sound whiny so I decided to let it go.
“Of course,” I said.
“You’ve still got dinner to make as well, young lady, did you get a chance to look at the recipe?” he asked.
I shook my head.
“From what I’ve seen, you know your way around a kitchen, but it will be ready on time, won’t it?” he asked.
“Yes, it will.” I didn’t know what else to say. I could handle dinner for four people.
After we all ate, Nate left and I got on with cleaning the kitchen. I still hadn’t so much as glanced at the recipe. At about three o’clock, Mason and Taylor appeared in the doorway.
“Can we go outside?” Taylor asked.
“Yes, I don’t see why not,” I said. After all, fresh air was good for growing boys.
They went off outside to play, and I scrubbed the oven, which was on the list of tasks. Arms aching and covered in grease, I finished an hour later and, after a good wash in the kitchen sink, I looked at the recipe.
Flour, butter, vegetable stock…
I looked at the ingredients. They were all things I’d heard of, and I found the flour and butter easily. I measured them out, using the measuring cups, and put them in a pan. I drained the vegetables and set aside the liquid they’d been cooked in—that would be the vegetable stock. The recipe had said make a roux, but I didn’t know what that was, so I just poured everything into a saucepan and tried to mix it together.
It was a disaster. There were blobs of flour floating at the top in those clumps that turn powdery when you try to mix them. There were blobs of butter that would not mix with anything else. I vaguely remembered from school cooking lessons that a roux was something to do with cheese sauce, so I tried putting some cheese in, thinking it might melt and bind everything together. It just made things worse. Now there were blobs of cheese that hadn’t melted properly and underneath it all, the vegetable stock, looking deathly pale, was stubbornly refusing to thicken.
At home, I would have thrown it into the blender then microwaved it until it looked right, but here, there was no blender, nor a microwave. I got the whisk out to try to smooth it and turned the heat up to melt the butter and cheese.
“Izzy?” Mason was at the doorway again.
“What is it?” I asked, looking round.
“It’s raining. Can we play in the barn?” he asked.
I was so busy with the food that I just wanted the children to play quietly somewhere and not distract me. The barn sounded like a great idea. They’d be out of the rain but still out of the house.
“Yes, go and play in the barn. I’ll give you a shout when it’s dinnertime,” I said, and turned back to the cooking. When I managed to part the liquid vegetable stock, I saw that some of the ingredients had burned to the bottom of the pan due to the higher heat. And still the sauce wouldn’t thicken.
I felt like I was auditioning for I Love Lucy; all I needed was a top-loading washing machine spewing foam everywhere.
I set the pan aside and started again. That pan was going to require some serious scrubbing, and time was running out. The meat was nearly cooked in the freshly cleaned oven.
I whipped out my phone and checked the Internet to see how to make a roux.
Add butter and flour to a pan on a medium heat and mix, it will form lumpy balls, cook until lightly brown.
I was just measuring out more flour when Nate put his head around the door.
“Hey, just checking in, how’s it going?” he asked, and I was just hoping to convince him of my Domestic Goddessitude when he added, “What’s that burning smell?”
“That’s the first attempt at the stew base,” I said, feeling stupid.
“It went wrong? How?” Nate asked.
“The instructions said to make a roux. I didn’t know what that was,” I confessed.
“Why didn’t you call me?” he asked. “I could have explained in seconds.”
“I was trying not to disturb you and by the time I realized it had gone wrong, it was already looking like that,” I said.
That might have been the end of it, had he not peered into the pan.
“Miss Sutton, why is there cheese in this discarded stew base?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. I felt so embarrassed.
“I just… thought it might help.” I wanted him to understand that I was trying my best, but if he was going to leave recipes using fancy cordon-bleu words then it could hardly be helped if things went wrong.
“Have you ever eaten a stew with goat’s cheese in it? There’s a reason nobody puts that in stew, young lady,” Nate said.
“Look, I didn’t know that, okay?” I started to push back. Couldn’t he see how much time I’d spent trying to fix it?
“Food in this house is valuable, young lady. I make nearly everything that we eat here. The butter, the cheese, the vegetables are all usually homemade—and we are in very short supply of dairy right now, because two of my goats are heavily pregnant. The point is, I cannot afford to waste food.” He didn’t sound angry but I still felt like I’d let him down. “Next time, instead of wasting ingredients, if you don’t know how to do something, I expect you to ask me for help. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, and I’m sorry,” I said, and I meant it. “I had no idea that a bit of flour and butter was going to cause such a problem.”
“Think about it, Miss Sutton. Where are you going to get the vegetable stock from to make the new stew? You either have to cook up more vegetables, in which case there’s now more vegetables than we need, so some of it will be wasted, or we have to go without sauce,” Nate said.
“What if I used the juices from the meat?” I asked. “People make beef stock and chicken stock all the time, right?”
“You can do that this time, but get it right next time,” Nate said.
I nodded. First time, next time, this time, on time—time was all he seemed to think about.
“Do you need any help with the roux?” he asked.
“What was that?” Nate held up a hand. I shook my head. I knew as much as he did—a loud crash had come from outside. Then I realized what it was.
“Oh, my God, the boys!” I cried. We ran out to the barn. Mason was standing in the doorway crying. I picked him up as Nate ran past me.
Inside the barn, the hayloft had collapsed.
“Help! I’m stuck!” Taylor’s voice called plaintively.
“I’m coming Taylor, just hang tight!” Nate called. I watched him lift the fallen wood—half of the platform from the hayloft, I think—and Taylor crawled out from under it.
“Are you hurt?” Nate asked his son as he hurried him out of the barn.
“No, daddy, I’m fine, the hay broke my fall,” Taylor said.
“Taylor seems unharmed,” I interjected, glad both boys were safe.
“What were you two doing in the barn? I’ve told you not to go in there until it’s fixed up,” Nate said.
That was when I remembered that he’d told me the boys weren’t allowed in the barn.
I felt mortified.
“Izzy said we could go in,” Mason said earnestly.
“Is this true, Miss Sutton?” The look Nate gave me could have peeled paint.
“Mason asked while I was sorting out the sauce, and I wasn’t really paying attention. It seemed like a good idea for them to play somewhere out of the rain and—” I tried to stammer an explanation, but Nate stopped me.
“No,” he said. “I will talk to you about this after dinner, Miss Sutton.”
He walked toward the chicken coops, leaving Mason, Taylor, and me standing in the rain outside the injured barn.
“Indoors, you two, come on.” I deposited Mason on his own two feet and took them back to the house, where I insisted that they play in the living room until dinner was served.
Despite the chicken stock making a delicious stew, of which I was very proud, dinner was a subdued affair in which none of us really spoke.
Mason clearly knew he shouldn’t have asked me if he was allowed to do something that his father had explicitly told him not to do; he had apologized to me twice while I was serving dinner and was very quiet throughout the meal. Taylor was sleepy from the day’s adventure. I knew I had badly upset Nate, and he spoke to me only when he had to, in a measured voice that seemed to be taking a lot of control.
“Can you please pass the salt, Miss Suttton,” he said, after seeing that it was out of his reach.
“Here you go.” I handed it to him. He avoided my fingers.
I didn’t know how to make this right. I was here to primarily take care of the boys and I hadn’t done that. After I’d cleared up the dinner things, I went to find him. He was in the living room. The boys were playing in their room.
“Miss Sutton, when I employed you, you assured me that you knew how to look after children and take care of the house. Today, you put my boys in serious danger. Since my wife died two years ago, they are all that I have. If anything happened to them…” He trailed off, squeezing his fist tight with emotion.
“Look, I really am sorry,” I said. “I can’t be in two places at once.”
“It’s not about being in two places at once. Young lady, I explicitly told you not to let the boys play in the barn. It was so important, I told you twice. You clearly didn’t listen, or maybe you thought that it wasn’t important enough to you to remember. As soon as my back was turned, the boys were in there, and part of the structure came down. Taylor had a very lucky escape today. I now don’t know if I can trust you with my children, Miss Sutton, and I will not tolerate such a shocking disregard for my instructions.” He looked disappointed and angry. “So I am going to give you a choice. You can either leave and find some other job to support you for the summer, or you can accept a spanking from me after the boys are asleep.”
I stared at him and tried not to let my reaction show on my face. Bloody hell. Was he serious? I couldn’t remember ever being spanked in my life, even when I stayed with my strict grandmother.
I needed this job though; what other job could I get on a student visa, with no Social Security number?
More than that, I felt that if I left now, it was as good as saying that I didn’t give a toss about what I did. And I most certainly did care. I felt awful and knew I had to make this right.
“I will accept a spanking,” I said.
“Thank you for letting me know, Miss Sutton,” he said.
I hurried away and busied myself with the washing up, taking care not to break any of the plates.
After the boys were in bed, I went back downstairs. Ever since Nate’s ultimatum, I had been dreading this moment.
“Come here, young lady,” he said.
I stepped forward slowly. My legs had turned to jelly.
When I was closer, he reached out and took my hand; the next thing I knew he was pulling me over his knee.
This was actually happening. I felt my heartrate quicken in anticipation of what was about to happen.
Once I was in position, he started straight away, bringing his hand down over my thin floral skirt. At first, I thought I could handle this easily, it was no worse than the tingle of my regular Brazilian wax, but it built up to the point where my bottom was stinging badly under his hand. I tried to keep quiet because the boys were upstairs and I didn’t want to worry them, but seriously, this was burning.
“Please, I’ve learned my lesson. I’m so sorry. I’ll never do anything like that again,” I hissed, trying to reassure Nate that he could stop now.
“I decide when you’ve learned your lesson. You need this spanking, Miss Sutton,” Nate said.
I squeezed my fists into tiny balls. I couldn’t take much more of this.
A short moment later, he stopped.
“Thank goodness. That was getting most unpleasant,” I said, trying to get up, but Nate held me fast.
“That was just the warm-up, Miss Sutton,” he said, then to my disbelief he flipped up my skirt and pulled my knickers down, and recommenced spanking me.
I kicked my legs and tried to wiggle free. This was too far.
“Let me go!” I protested. “It hurts!”
“Young lady, if you continue trying to get out of your punishment, I’ll have to use my belt,” he said, continuing to spank me. The fire in my bottom was getting worse and worse.
“You’re hurting me!” I reiterated.
“It’s a punishment spanking, Miss Sutton, it’s supposed to hurt,” he said. “I am sorry that it has come to this, young lady, but you need to learn your lesson.”
I kicked wildly.
“Do you want to leave and find another job, Miss Sutton?” he asked.
“Please, no, I want to stay here,” I whimpered.
“All right, Miss Sutton, you leave me no choice. After I’ve finished your hand spanking, you will also feel my belt. I was not going to, but you are not accepting your spanking. If you will not accept your punishment, you might as well leave in the morning,” he said.
Oh, God, I couldn’t leave.
I took a deep breath and tried to accept that this was happening whether I wanted it to or not. I did deserve it. The boys could have been killed or gravely injured.
It stung so badly though! More than that, it made me feel vulnerable.
Soon, I was crying. Nate’s boys were all he had, and I’d put them in danger. I deserved all this and more. I cried and cried as he spanked me, until at last he stopped and rubbed my bum cheeks. The soothing feeling was unbelievable.
“Up you get, Miss Sutton, and kneel against this chair.” He got up out of the seat and I knelt down, my face in the cushion. He must have heard me crying but I didn’t want him to see.
There was the unmistakable sound of a belt being unfastened.
My bottom was still sore from the spanking; how much worse was this going to get?
As the first whack hit my left cheek, I gripped the cushion tightly and tried hard not to move. The second blow made contact with my right cheek, and I wanted to jump up and grab my sore bottom. Nate kept bringing his belt down on my bottom, and I just cried and cried. Finally, I went limp, and didn’t even try to resist.
When he stopped, he sat down and pulled me into an embrace. He rubbed my stinging behind and rubbed my back.
“Shh shh. It’s all right. It’s all right.” He soothed me with his hands and his words. “You took it well and I forgive you. It’s all over now, Miss Sutton, and there’s nothing to worry about.”
I felt like I could just melt in his arms, despite the pain in my bum.
“I’m sorry for what I did,” I said, and while I had meant it earlier, I really meant it now, in a new and deeper way.
“I know, Miss Sutton,” he said. “Now, it’s long past your bedtime, so go on up to bed, get your rest, and let’s start tomorrow with a clean slate.”
I nodded, wiping away my tears, and I went, carefully, up to bed.
In the sanctity of my own room, I lay down on my bed, flat on my tummy, and tried to put my thoughts in order. The California summer night was enough of a blanket for me just now, and I reflected that an Alpine winter night would be really, really nice for my poor, burning bum.
Nate hadn’t been nasty or sharp. He had waited until he was no longer angry, although he wasn’t devoid of emotion of course. I never felt that this was supposed to harm me, so much as to correct me. He had reassured me afterwards, and I’d felt so secure, so safe, and so certain that this punishment was over, that he wouldn’t hold my transgressions against me afterwards.
Then there was the fact that I was now, not to put too fine a point on it, somewhat aroused by the events of the evening. I went to sleep trying to figure out why I had felt like that, and how I felt toward Nate. It was undeniable that he had awoken something in me.
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