Wendy thought perhaps she should have minded being twenty years old and yet still being treated like a schoolgirl, but having eight friends who received precisely the same treatment helped a lot. What helped even more was that Wendy’s life on Oak Street constituted a stroke of marvelous fortune in a young adulthood that had seemed destined to land her dead on a city street somewhere, picked up not by one of Selecta’s relocation vans but by one of their mortuary services ones. Why did it matter that she had to call Mrs. Kimball ma’am or mommy and Mr. Kimball sir or daddy when all her friends had to do the same with their guardians?
She found one thing, though, about her life on Oak Street hard to like, for reasons that she thought should be more obvious than they actually were. And Wendy was about to experience that thing here and now, Friday, April 21, five p.m., at 6 Oak Street. Mrs. Kimball had told her to wait in her room until Mr. Kimball got home from work, because Wendy had a spanking coming.
“But, ma’am,” Wendy pleaded. “Frankie and I weren’t doing anything.”
“Wendy, I don’t want to get into that, because I don’t want to give you a reason to lie to me. It’s enough that Mrs. Wood told me the door was closed, and that when she opened it she found you both on the bed.”
“But we were just talking, Mommy!”
“Go to your room, Wendy. Don’t make this worse. You know very well that appearances count for a very great deal, for a young woman’s future. That door should not have been closed—you and Frances both know that. For that alone you will both be punished tonight.”
Both of them? It hadn’t ever occurred to Wendy that Frankie, her best friend, got spanked, too. Wouldn’t Frankie have told her? But then, Wendy had never confided to Frankie that she herself had to go over her daddy’s knee with some regularity, had she?
Wendy Kimball and her friends hadn’t grown up on Oak Street, of course. The neighborhood hadn’t existed when the girls were actually young. Each of the seven households that constituted the small development in Southern California had moved in soon after the eldest girl of the household had turned eighteen—though Wendy and the other girls hadn’t turned eighteen with their guardians, but rather in government custody. Two families had received enlargements in succeeding years, as additional eighteen-year-old girls had come to live in the handsome, if modest, colonial houses that lined the sunny street.
The circumstance that led to Wendy coming to live on Oak Street as the ward of a couple in their forties, Tom and Wilma Kimball, despite Wendy’s real name being Baskin, might have seemed extraordinary to anyone who had lived before the institution of the corporate laws. Even in the new world of companies like Selecta, who administered the Oak Street development, the creation of households by taking eighteen-year-old girls from troubled backgrounds and settling them with stable, childless couples to live there until the age of twenty-five, represented an unusual step.
When the Selecta van came to get Wendy, though, neither she nor the others awaiting ‘rehabilitative relocation’ in the corporate transfer facility—nor, she thought now, even the corporate magistrate who had directed that she be sent there—had any idea that Wendy’s destination would be a peaceful suburban neighborhood, rather than one of the unskilled-labor centers where most of the eighteen-year-olds picked up for loitering were sent, according to the news on the net. She never again saw any of the eighteen-year-olds she had known so very briefly at the transfer facility; instead Wendy had met Frances Wood, whose new friend Mary arrived the following year, the Kimballs’ neighbors on one side, and Ginnie Samuels, who lived on the other side of Wendy’s new home.
Now, two years later, the nine girls of Oak Street, who felt sure they had been chosen by Selecta to take part in some experiment at whose significance they sometimes tried to guess, were practically inseparable. They had their own little one-room school, taught by Wendy’s guardian Mrs. Wilma Kimball in her basement, where they received the kind of education the public schools had entirely failed to give them. Every one of the girls had learned to speak properly, like little ladies, as Mrs. Kimball often told them, and every one of them had learned to write clearly and with proper grammar, as well as having their horizons expanded by the old-fashioned kind of curriculum that even the better corporate-run schools didn’t provide anymore: Shakespeare and Melville, history and French.
She knew she shouldn’t push her luck—should just go to her room, because her daddy always spanked extra for any defiance Mrs. Kimball reported, but she couldn’t help herself. “Is Frankie getting spanked, too?” she asked.
Mrs. Kimball narrowed her eyes. “That’s none of your affair, young lady. You just get your own naughty backside up those stairs, and get your hairbrush out for your daddy.”
Wendy gave a little sob at the thought of the hairbrush, which was always out on her dresser anyway. In the act of turning to obey Wilma’s command, she gave one final pouting protest, “We weren’t doing anything!” and whirled to run up the stairs and into her room, wanting to slam the door behind her but careful not to do so—she had gotten extra from the hairbrush for that enough times now to know better.
She and Frankie hadn’t been doing anything, either. Frances hadn’t meant to close the door all the way, just enough so that they could be sure of not being overheard as they whispered together on the bed. Because although they hadn’t done anything, and didn’t really plan to do anything, they had definitely talked about doing ‘things.’
Really they had talked about other people doing things, in the naughty book Frankie had found in Mr. Wood’s desk. But two of the people doing the things in the book were eighteen-year-old girls, like Wendy and Frankie, and when Frankie showed her the part about what they did in their dorm room, Wendy felt very strange, and she knew the feeling had to do with sex just as the girls in the book were having sex, but she had no idea what to do about it.
One thing the Oak Street girls seemed to share, though they talked about it very rarely, was that none of them—despite their universally rough backgrounds—had ever done more than kiss a boy. When they tried to figure out for what kind of experiment Selecta had brought them to the little neighborhood, they often focused on that coincidence, their faces turning various shades of pink and red. Because nothing about their lives seemed the least bit erotic, though—a word whose meaning Wendy wasn’t even sure she knew because such words never formed part of Mrs. Kimball’s lessons, but which must mean sexy, more or less, she thought—that speculation never went anywhere.
Wendy stood in front of the mirror that hung on the back of her closet door, wondering why she felt so strange, again, on hearing that Frankie was going to be punished tonight, too. Five feet three inches tall, and rather curvy these days, Wendy knew she looked sweet in the simple blue skirt and white cotton top she wore most days. Mr. and Mrs. Kimball allowed her to wear jeans on Saturdays, but the rest of the week she wore skirts that came down below her knees—she had two of these blue ones, plus a red one, along with ankle socks and flats.
On Sundays she chose between two dresses, one a floral print and the other a slightly darker shade of blue that she thought brought out the sea-blue eyes in her heart-shaped face, framed with wavy chestnut hair down to her shoulders. Underneath, as she would have to display for her daddy very soon, now—his car was pulling into the driveway—she wore cotton panties of various pastel colors, though on Sunday she also wore old-fashioned nylons held up by a suspender belt. Her bras, now with a C cup, chosen by Mrs. Kimball, were all very sensible, made of a stretchy white or beige cotton blend.
She heard the Kimballs talking downstairs, and though she couldn’t hear exactly what they said, the exasperated tone in Wendy’s daddy’s voice told her that he had probably had a long day and didn’t particularly want to deal with punishing her. That might mean that he only did a perfunctory job, as sometimes happened, and Wendy would walk away from his knee without wincing, but it was more likely to mean that he spanked harder, as if wanting to make sure that even though he felt put upon in having to take the time to deliver the lesson he felt the need for thoroughness all the more.
Wendy sometimes thought she might be able to influence Mr. Kimball’s inclinations in this regard: at any rate she always tried to do so, by doing her best to be a good girl for her punishment. Her daddy had made very clear to her the way he expected her to act when discipline was needed. She at least got the satisfaction, when she took her spankings well, of his praise as he soothed her afterward, even when he had rendered her poor bottom very painful.
Her door opened. Daddy never knocked when he came to spank Wendy, even though at other times both Kimball guardians respected her privacy. Thoughts of that respect, though, led immediately to remembering Frankie’s mistake in closing her own door: one rule that seemed universal on Oak Street was that the girls’ bedroom doors must remain open when they were in there together. The Kimballs and the Woods had the rule, as did the Samuelses. Wendy wasn’t sure about the Londons and the Giulianis, but Renee Dalton had told her that Renee’s guardians had it, and so did Delia Chichester’s, Renee’s next-door neighbors. None of the girls felt sure exactly why that rule should be so important, but Wendy and Frankie had recently—since the discovery of the book in Mr. Wood’s desk—theorized that it had something to do with sex.
“Hi, pumpkin,” Daddy said. He sounded resigned, and a little tired.
“Hi, Daddy,” Wendy said, turning from the mirror, feeling her cheeks grow hot. Her mouth twisted to the side as she looked at his shiny brown shoes. Like the other male guardians on Oak Street, Tom Kimball worked in an office only fifteen minutes away, and so he got home for family dinner every night. Usually that made Wendy happy—the exception of course was on nights when Mrs. Kimball had decided Wendy had merited discipline.
“Look at me, please, Wendy,” Mr. Kimball said.
Wendy raised her eyes to his handsome, bearded face. She felt her nose twitch with the threat of tears. Why did Mrs. Wood have to make such a fuss? They hadn’t been doing anything!
In the back of her mind, of course, Wendy knew that even though she and Frankie had only been talking, the subject of their conversation might well be the kind of thing for which Mr. and Mrs. Kimball would punish her anyway. The stuff in the book wasn’t the kind of thing that ever got discussed in the Kimball household, but Wendy had the sense that her guardians disapproved of the way sex worked in the modern world.
Sometimes she thought she could hear her guardians making love in the master bedroom down the hall, but the house was big enough that she had never been sure, and it made her face glow to think about it. Those sounds—sometimes like Mrs. Kimball were crying out because Mr. Kimball was punishing her, and sometimes a faint, rhythmic thumping—were much easier to ignore than to ponder.
“Mrs. Kimball says that Mrs. Wood found you and Frances in her room with the door shut.”
“Yes, Daddy,” Wendy said miserably.
Suddenly, in through the open window, from the Woods’ house next door, and undoubtedly from Frankie’s bedroom where her best friend’s own window must be open, came a sharp slap, and then a wailing cry. Wendy couldn’t help the little cry that came from her own throat, nor could she help turning toward the window, though of course she could see only the corner of Frankie’s house because of the angle.
Mr. Kimball walked quickly by her and shut the window, but not before another spank—for it could only be the sound of Frankie’s own spanking that they heard—and another yelp of pain had reached Wendy’s ears. If her face had been hot before, now it felt like a blazing fire. Frankie did get spanked by her guardians, and she was getting spanked right now!
Mr. Kimball closed the blinds. Wendy suddenly wished he could have closed them on her imagination, because she couldn’t stop herself from wondering exactly how her best friend got spanked, and how much resemblance it bore to the way Wendy herself received her punishments. Did Frankie go over Mr. Wood’s knee, even though, like Wendy, she was twenty years old now? Was her bottom bare, or did she get spanked over her skirt, or over her panties?
As her daddy turned back to face her, his hand reaching now for the hairbrush, Wendy’s breathing quickened not only for her own coming discipline session, but somehow for Frankie’s too.