I know it's early but I imagine other people are out shopping for 'that perfect gift'. LOL
Title: The Perfect Gift
"So," she ventured tentatively. "Have you bought Mom and Dad's Christmas present yet?"
I sensed a whiff of desperation in her question and pounced on it. "Oh, a long time ago," I assured her. "They're going to love it."
It was a yearly tradition, as familiar to me as Christmas carols and eggnog, this competition between my sister and me. Who could buy the best present for our parents? Oh we never came right out and said that, not since we were kids anyway. We were much more subtle than that now.
"What did you buy?" she asked, feigning indifference but I wasn't fooled.
"Oh," I matched her blasé tone. "I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise."
"Jason," she wheedled. "You know I won't tell."
I knew no such thing. She'd stolen my thunder before, granted she was five at the time and the concept of secrets was sketchy for her, but still. "You'll just have to wait until Christmas," I said firmly.
She hung up shortly after; her mission of finding out what I'd bought, foiled. I knew if I divulged what the present was she'd have a better chance at outdoing me. Secrecy was key, especially in the early days. I could hardly keep myself from chortling in glee as I imagined the pressure Susan would be feeling.
"Well, you look pleased with yourself."
David's voice made me jump; I hadn't anticipated him coming home this early. I recovered fast though and returned his kiss.
"Well?" he smiled. "How come you're in such a good mood?"
I shrugged, "It'll be Christmas soon. That's a good reason."
"It is," he agreed cheerfully. He lifted the full shopping bags in his arms, "And I'm done Christmas shopping. And that's a reason to celebrate." He had gaggles of nieces and nephews to buy for and it was a monumental job.
David's list was long while, besides him, I only really had my parents and Susan that I exchanged presents with on the holidays. We both had budgets though. Carefully drawn up after I'd spent last January and February, maxed out on my credit cards and sweating bullets about making payments. Outdoing Susan last Christmas had cost me. My conscience nudged me uncomfortably. I'd blown my budget on Mom and Dad's present this year, big time blown it and I knew the dim view my partner would make of that. Which I totally got, I did but this year I had the perfect present and I knew David wasn't about to budge on what he'd consider excessive spending. While I love my job it doesn't pay that well, learning to live within my means was a difficult and ongoing struggle.
I spent the next week, alternately excited about the cruise that I'd booked for my parents and guilty about deceiving David. He was looking at me with more suspicion each day too, knowing something was up. I could only use the `Christmas is coming' excuse for my jumpiness for so long.
"What's wrong, Jason?" he finally asked as he rearranged all the groceries I'd previously unpacked, putting them in more reasonable places. He frowned as he found a tub of melting ice cream in the cupboard.
"Nothing's wrong," I answered irritably. "What could be wrong?"
"I don't know," David looked at me thoughtfully. "But you're not yourself."
"Well, who the hell am I then?" I growled. My list of rude possibilities was interrupted by a sound swat on my bottom.
"That's enough of that," David said. "Maybe you're just tired. You can go get ready for bed."
I didn't put up an argument, it was almost eleven anyway and I was glad to escape any further probing about what was bothering me. And even that single swat was enough to remind me of what I deserved for lying. I picked up the radio to set the alarm for the morning and it burst into life, `You'd better watch out, you'd better not pout. You'd better not cry….'. I quickly shut it off, my heart jumping unpleasantly; I'd hated that song as a little kid when I still believed. As a boy I'd been a ….handful, was how the more polite teachers put it. I'd been terrified that Santa would surely know how naughty I'd been and no matter how hard I tried I would never be able to tip that scale onto the `nice' side. My fears were always unfounded; my stocking was always full on Christmas morning, the tree crowded with a glut of presents with my name on a fair share of them. My parents had understood the trials of being an excitable and impulsive little boy.
They'd been less understanding of the tension between Susan and me as we got older though. I remember one Christmas asking my mother what she wanted for Christmas and her rather desperate reply, "I just want you and your sister to get along."
"No, Mom," I said impatiently. "A real present."
"That would be a real present, Jason," she said seriously but I brushed it aside. Maybe it had hurt her, I considered now, seeing two people she loved fight like that. My conscience gave another kick to my guts. This wasn't right; I was going to tell David. Tomorrow. Maybe.
Maybe I would have, I like to think I would have anyway, but it became a moot point. Coincidentally we both came home at the same time from work and as I started supper he turned on the answering machine to listen for messages.
"Hi Jason," the machine burbled. "This is Shelly at the travel agency. Just calling to tell you that the tickets for the cruise are ready to be picked up. I'm sure your parents will have a great time."
I dropped the onion I'd been about to slice on the countertop.
Dizzy, I gripped onto the counter, unable to turn around. I felt his hand on my shoulder, turning me to face him.
"Have you got something to tell me?" he asked quietly.
I nodded but nothing came out of my mouth. He took my hand and led towards the living room. Sitting down on the couch he kept a tight hold on my hand.
"Is this what you've been worrying about?" he questioned.
Another nod but my voice seemed to have deserted me.
"How much did you spend?"
Double what I'd budgeted I wanted to say but somehow the words didn't come out. I felt myself being drawn across his knee and then his palm came down hard on my backside, loosening the words. "Three thousand," I gasped.
He sat me back up so he could look at me. I would have rather been across his knee when I saw his expression.
"It's a perfect present though," I said desperately trying to make him understand. "They've been wanting to go to the Caribbean."
They could actually afford the tickets a lot easier than I could. Which was probably some of my motivation in buying them. I was self-conscious about my low-paying job and I wanted them to be impressed.
"Jason," he shook his head. "Your parents don't expect gifts like this. Don't you remember what they said last year?"
I did. They had almost begged me not to buy them such extravagant presents.
"But Susan will buy them something great, I know it."
David looked a little grimmer, "So it's not about what your parents want at all, Jason? It's about competing with your sister?"
Some Christmas spirit. I wanted to deny it but I'd told enough lies to David already. I just looked down at the floor, bitterly ashamed of myself.
"I'm taking your deliberate breaking of your budget as disobedience, Jason," he informed me. "You asked me to help you set it and you intentionally broke it."
"Yes, sir," I agreed, not the least bit surprised.
"How many times have you lied to me this week?"
I winced at the blunt way he put that, "A lot," I admitted, feeling the tears welling up in my eyes. Every time I denied something was bothering me, I'd lied to him, every day I didn't tell him I'd hidden the fact I'd disobeyed him, I'd lied.
"Do you want supper before or after I spank you?"
I couldn't possibility eat now, "After," I answered tearfully.
"All right then," he said, getting to his feet. "We'll deal with the disobedience first and then we're going to discuss lying."
My heart banged against my ribs, knowing I was going to get two separate spankings. I was already crying softly when we reached the spare room. Wiping at my wet eyes with one hand I tried to undo my jeans with the other. David's large hands nudged my fumbling ones aside to unzip my pants and skim them down my legs. I wanted him to know how badly I felt and when I felt his hands on the waistband of my briefs, I gripped them. "I'm sorry," I said urgently.
He squeezed my hands. "This has to stop Jason," he said, his eyes soft and sad. "You're hurting your parents and your sister. And you're hurting yourself, baby."
"I know." I took a deep breath when he released one of my hands to lean over and remove the paddle from the nightstand's drawer but I didn't protest. Which was a first for me.
His hands tugged my shorts down and off, joining my jeans already lying on the floor. When he looked at me expectantly I slowly lowered myself over his lap. The minute I felt him move to pick up the paddle though my hand moved instinctively to cover my vulnerable backside.
"Jason," he asked firmly. "Do you deserve this paddling?"
"Yes, sir," I acknowledged unhappily.
"Then you move that hand."
I reluctantly shifted my protective hand from my bottom to grip onto the comforter. The first few swats were bearable, landing on virgin territory so to speak but the heat and the sting soon built up and I struggled to keep my hands in place. He was paddling slowly, each measured swat stoking the blaze he was lighting on my backside. The cadence didn't change but the state of my bottom sure did. I tried to count how many fell but it was difficult to concentrate so I just buried my face in the blanket until he was done and cried. Hard.
He put me on my feet when he was through and I clutched at my sweltering bottom, squeezing and kneading to try and relieve the intense sting. He led me to the corner and stayed with me until I'd calmed down a bit. I knew we wouldn't be discussing anything until I'd stopped crying fully. It was awful to be standing there, my backside throbbing, knowing I had another one coming. Which was part of the rationale behind corner time between two spankings. I could be done right now if I hadn't lied and that made me regret the lies all the more. I gradually stopped, my loud sobs fading away to quiet hiccups. The tears welled up again when I felt his hand on my shoulder though.
I let him guide me over his lap once more, feeling regret with every pore of my being. I wished I hadn't spent that money and more than ever I wished I hadn't lied to him. I noted with relief, it was his hand I felt on my tender backside now. Still, a hand spanking on top of a paddling, quite simply, hurt. I was promising I'd never lie to him again before he even started.
He lay me on the bed when we were done, lying down beside me to comfort me. When I'd finally quit crying he asked, "Can you return the tickets?"
"I have another idea," I said.
I hung up the phone, feeling like the Grinch when his heart grew three sizes. Susan had been so excited when I offered her the chance to share in giving Mom and Dad the cruise. Suspicious at first but when I convinced her I was sincere, she'd sounded so happy and relieved.
I smiled, thinking of how pleased Mom would be at the idea of a joint gift from Susan and me. I went to find David, lowering myself gingerly onto the couch to lie with my head pillowed in his lap.
"I'm so proud of you," he said, bending down to kiss my cheek.
I thought I was all cried out but my eyes stung with tears again at his words. "Me too." I turned my head so his lips could find my mouth.