There was a screeching, ripping sound.
Laura got out of the car and went round to the other side to look. God, why hadn’t she seen that stupid bollard? It was more than a scratch. It had scraped right through to the silvery metal and dented it as well. It couldn’t be fixed with a touch-up stick. It was a bodywork-shop job and it would probably cost a bomb. She got back into the car and drove home feeling utterly miserable.
Once upon a time the first person she would have wanted to tell was Ralph, her husband. In fact before they were married she’d damaged her own car and he’d been so nice and sympathetic. He’d taken her out to dinner to cheer her up, and told her stories about all the people he’d known who’d driven into things. He’d tried really hard, but even so he hadn’t been able to remove that lump of misery in her guts, which only dissipated when she’d had the car repaired and done enough overtime to pay for it.
Now was different. This accident was evidence of carelessness and therefore meant she’d disobeyed the general instruction to stay alert and pay attention. Ralph was particularly keen on this area of her discipline because he knew she had a tendency to day-dream. She hadn’t been day-dreaming; the bollard had been hidden from view and anyone could have had such an accident, but she couldn’t tell Ralph that because it would mean she wasn’t owning up to her responsibility.
When should she tell him? Before dinner? After dinner?
In the end it didn’t matter because Ralph saw the damage when he decided to walk through the garage to get to the kitchen.
He wasn’t one to prevaricate.
“Laura, you were going to tell me about your accident, weren’t you?”
“Of course I was!”
“How did it happen?”
“I was reversing and I didn’t see there was a bollard there.”
“You didn’t look. When you reverse you need to look first. Get out if necessary.”
Laura hung her head. She knew what was coming now.
“Leave dinner. Go up to the bedroom and wait for me.”
She took off her apron and walked slowly upstairs. She sat on the bed, knowing what would happen.
She heard Ralph’s footsteps on the stairs and her pelvic floor bucked as if she were getting into a hot bath.
“Stand up,” he commanded her. “Take off your shoes and your jeans.”
He sat on the bed and patted his lap. She draped herself over it and he pulled down her knickers. Then he spanked her bare bottom hard and thoroughly till she was kicking and squirming. The pain was intense.
After an age, when her bottom was red hot, he swung her to sit beside him. She winced. She would have to sit on a cushion for dinner.
“Go to three garages tomorrow and get quotes,” he said. “I’ll tell you which garages. Then we’ll decide whether to claim on insurance or not.”
“Thank you,” she said.
Ralph knew why she’d thanked him. The spanking meant there was no lump of misery in her guts. The accident was a practical problem which they would both work at to resolve. All guilt, self-blame and regret had been expelled from her while she was upside down over his knee.