She leapt up the stairs in twos and threes, coming to a halt just in front of the door.
"Morning Miranda," Jenna replied as she leaned up against the avocado colored lockers and struggled severely to catch her breath. Of all people, didn't it just have to be the PE coach that saw her weezing and panting up a lung? She pointed to her watch as the woman passed by. "Late for an important meeting," she said, hoping that this excuse would cut some water. The woman simply turned her head, flashed a snide smile, and disappeared down the hall and into a bathroom.
"Bitch," Jenna said under her breath. "Who cares what she thinks anyway?" But she made a mental note regardless. It was time to lay off the cigarettes and hit the gym again.
Once she gained control of her heavy breathing, Jenna straightened herself up and worked into her first smile of the morning, her best "meet the parents to discuss a heinous offense perpetrated by their beloved son" smile.
She stepped inside; her smile faltered.
The room was practically empty, with two out of the three assistant's desks empty. Only her personal secretary, Rebecca, was there. Jenna eyed two empty seats right next to her office door.
Her secretary was sitting back, legs propped up, phone to her ear. "Yeah, hold on a second babe." She put the phone down to her lap. "Everybody else is sick, can you believe it? I blame the food at the party yesterday, though I don't know why I didn't come down with anything."
"I'm sure they'll be okay," Jenna said. "Bit early in the morning to be making personal calls, isn't it?"
Rebecca shrugged. Jenna closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Was Mr. Dixon here, by any chance?"
She nodded and pushed her thick frames up onto her round, freckled face. "He left just a few minutes ago. He was pretty pissed off."
"I have his cell number. Should I call and tell him that you're here? If he's not too far he might turn around and come back."
Jenna considered this, though she wasn't sure if she could muster a "dealing with an irate parent because you've had a horrible fight with your husband on Valentine's Day and were up all night crying and missed their appointment" smile.
"No," she said. "Why don't you call after lunch and reschedule."
"Alright," Rebecca replied, picking up her phone and continuing with her conversation.
"Oh, and could you get Daniel in here for me?"
Rebecca gave the slightest of nods as Jenna stomped her snow encrusted shoes on the mat and made her way to the end of the room, under the glittery-red heart streamers hanging over her door, and into her office. The door shut with a heavy thud and a click. She leaned up against it and heaved a burdensome sigh.
"I don't care if I never see another glittery-red heart for the rest of my life," she muttered as she threw her purse onto a chair.
The morning routine: hang up coat, plug in coffee pot, sit down at desk and thumb through the various stacks of papers, prioritize papers, check email. All of this she did without focus while her mind drifted about, scattershot like the hisses and spits coming from the Mr. Coffee in the corner of the room. It had a habit of doing that when she was sleep deprived. Her desk phone buzzed.
"Daniel's gonna be a few minutes," Rebecca crackled over the speaker. "He's in the middle of a test."
Back to the morning's first task. Jenna shoved all the stacks of paper to the side and brought a thick manila folder to the center of her desk. She opened it to retrieve a 4" x 6" pink envelope. Exploring it with her long and delicate fingers, she shook her head in disappointment.
"This time you've got to do something, Jenna. This time he's gone too far."
She put the envelope down, reclined into her new leather chair, glad that she had splurged and bought the most expensive one at the office supply store. Of course her husband had made her feel guilty for spending $900.
"Fuck him," she said. "He doesn't have to sit down all day long like I do."
Not more than a second later Jenna's cell phone lit up with David's name, printed across the screen in tiny black font.
"What is it David? I don't have time to argue right now."
His voice sounded distant. "I know," he said. " I just figured I should apologize for what I said last night."
"Yeah, that would be a good idea," she bit back.
"Hey, I'm trying to apologize here. What's with the attitude?"
Jenna closed her eyes. "What do you expect?" she snarled. "I'm still upset. And a simple 'I'm sorry' isn't going to take care of it right now."
"You see, that's the problem," he retorted.
"What's the problem?"
"I still don't understand why this whole thing has got you so pissy."
"Yes, that's exactly the problem," she said, now close to yelling. She felt like throwing the phone against the wall. "I don't think you ever will understand."
Her desk phone buzzed again.
"What is it!"
"Is now a bad time?" Rebecca asked. Jenna immediately regained her composure.
"No, I'm sorry," she said as she hung up on her husband.
"Daniel's here, if you still want to see him."
She swiveled over as the door opened. In walked a young man wearing jeans and a light blue hockey jersey with the sleeves cut off, exposing a small biohazard sign tattooed on his left bicep. He carried his full height, all six feet of it, into the room on worn out cross trainers. He had the air of someone so self-assured that they have no reason to bring attention to themselves. Was she anything like that when she was nineteen? When she was twenty six? Maybe that's what she was missing in her life.
"Good morning, Daniel," she said as she got herself up and helped herself to a cup of coffee. "Do you want some?" she added as she tore open a sugar packet and dumped the contents into the shimmering black liquid. He was silent, just looked at her coolly with his green eyes.
"Right," she said, sitting down at her desk and dipping into an energy reserve. "We talked briefly yesterday, so you know why you're in here."
He shifted in his seat, slouching a little. "Where's my dad?" he asked in that deep, resonating voice of his.
She took a sip of coffee, fidgeted uncomfortably in her seat, an action that produced several unflattering noises in the new, unbroken leather. "Um . . . I was late this morning. I missed your father, I'm afraid."
Daniel's mouth crept into a smile. "I'll bet that pissed him off," he said.
"Yeah, well, rest assured I'll be apologizing when I see him tomorrow morning."
"Oh, I don't give a fuck anyway."
Jenna gave him an imploring look. "Daniel, I wish you wouldn't talk like that. It's inappropriate, really." She picked up the envelope. "Daniel, I want you to be honest with me."
"Are you gonna stop using my name like that?"
"Like I'm some little child."
"Fair enough," Jenna replied. She flipped open the envelope and drew out a plain white greeting card with something in Spanish written on the outside, overlaying a large red heart. "This Valentine's Day card; I want you to confess to giving it to Stacey Santiago."
Daniel eyed the card for several seconds, not moving his body an inch. "But I've never seen that card before," he said.
"Yes you have. It's your card. We have someone saying that they saw you putting it on Stacey's desk." This last part was a bluff.
"Well, I did put a card there, but it wasn't that one."
"Why don't you take a closer look?" Jenna stretched over the desk and handed him the card. For a brief moment his eyes caught the substantial cleavage exposed through the V cut top of her crimson pantsuit. Suddenly she wished that she had another button there.
He opened it, doing his best to feign novelty, but couldn't suppress a chuckle as soon as he looked inside.
"You really think that's funny?" Jenna asked.
"Yeah, actually I do."
"Well, I don't, and neither does Stacey. It's extremely offensive. Everybody knows about the incident with her uncle and the . . ." Daniel's eyes perked up. Jenna rolled her own. "And the . . . um . . . horse," she continued. Everybody was willing to forget about it, so didn't you just have to draw a picture of a man having relations with a mule and paste it in this card and give it to her in class."
"Well," he replied, "isn't it true that people who fail to study history end up repeating the same mistakes?"
"Daniel, I don't think you understand the severity of this situation. You're not only looking at suspension here. You also have a potential sexual harassment suit on your hands."
"Now wait a minute," Daniel said as he threw the card down on the desk, where it slid back over to Jenna, open to the image inside. She looked down at it and cringed. "I told you, I have nothing to do with this. I didn't even want to do that stupid assignment to begin with." He sat up straight now and put his hands in the air. "Write a Valentine's Day card in Spanish, and then give it so somebody in class, all secret like? What, am I in the fourth grade or something?"
"Don't derail the discussion from the subject at hand. Whether or not the assignment was stupid isn't the issue. The issue is this highly offensive piece of filth that you brought in and put on Stacey's desk when she wasn't looking."
As if just remembering where he was, and more importantly who he was and how he normally operated, Daniel eased up and slouched back into his seat, resuming his cool expression. Jenna could tell that he was working something over in his mind.
"I'll say it again. You have no proof that that card is mine."
"And I'll remind you one more time that we have a witness."
"I guess it's their word against mine."
"I guess so," Jenna said. She got up from her chair for more coffee. Daniel eyed the form of her curvy ass through her tight pants.
"Why do you have to do things like this, Daniel? You're a smart young man; you could really make something out of yourself."
She turned around. Daniel was standing directly in front of her, only inches away.
"What's up Mrs. Parker?"
"Um . . . what do you mean 'what's up'?"
"Something's bothering you. I can feel it."
"Of course something's bothering me," she replied. "What have we just been talking about for the last five minutes?"
"No, that's not it," he said. Jenna wondered if the faint tone of concern underlying Daniel's voice was genuine or not. She guessed not, but the sudden shift from his usual cool stoicism was jarring anyway, almost as jarring as the lack of space between them. "What happened? You have a fight with your husband or something?" He continued.
"What? No. Anyway, my marriage is none of your business," she said. She moved to maneuver around him. He shifted, blocking her way.
"Maybe. But whatever is wrong, you know I can make you feel better."
Jenna studied his face, looking for a clue as to what his intentions were. The bangs of his dark brown hair hung low, and there was a day's worth of black stubble on his well-defined chin. Suddenly Daniel didn't look as he had when he first came through the door. Once a rebellious teenager, now the sunlight streaming in from the window above her desk highlighted his more rugged features, making him look more like a grown man with grown up intentions.
"I don't need to feel better," Jenna said. "I feel just fine. I'm just tired, that's all."
Daniel reached out and laid a hand on her shoulder.
"Daniel, what are you doing?"
"I must be lucky, Mrs. Parker." His grip was firm. She wondered if he could feel her pulse accelerating.
"What do you mean by that?" she said, slowly.
"Well, I get away with a hell of a lot of shit around here."
"Yeah, well, I wouldn't necessarily say 'get away with.'"
"Come on. I'm no idiot. I should have been suspended at least four times by now. I figure a lot of it has to do with me being captain of the hockey team."
"Well, yeah, I guess so," she said. Her voice was wavering slightly.
"But sometimes I wonder if you're also to blame. You got a thing for me, Mrs. Parker?"
"Daniel! Do you have any idea how inappropriate that would be?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "That's besides the point, isn't it?"
"Daniel, let me make myself perfectly clear. I'll admit that you're a good looking boy. But you also need to realize that I'm a married woman."
He shook his head with mock disappointment. "Shame on you for lying and setting a bad example."
"Bad example? I'm not lying."
"Yes you are," he said. "You're lying to yourself. Come on, admit it. You've got a thing for me, don't you?"
The word was on the tip of her tongue, but for some reason she hesitated just a moment before getting it out. "No," she said.
He removed his hand, and for a split second she was relieved, until he began trailing his fingers across her cheek.
"Daniel, please stop this."
"You don't have to worry about a thing Mrs. Parker. I've never hurt a woman before and I don't intend on starting now. I'm completely harmless."
He cupped her chin, brushing her lips with his thumb, and then moved his fingers down her neck. She was surprised at how gentle they felt, those thick fingers that bore years and years of rough athletic activity. She felt a jolt of something in the pit of her stomach.
Further down his hand moved. He squeezed one of her breasts, then the other. Her nipples stiffened up immediately. He ran the back of his hand across her stomach. He went lower, stopping just above her pubic bone.
"Do you still want me to stop?"
She failed to answer, just looked him straight in the eyes as he ran his hand up her inner thigh and pressed his palm into her crotch. She gasped and shuddered. He could feel her wetness through the thin tweed fabric.
"Now tell me," he said, switching back to his standard air of coolness. "What did your husband do that got you so upset?"
"I . . . I don't want to talk about it."
He found her clit with his middle finger and gave it a gentle rub.
"Oh my God," she moaned, her head tilting back and her jaw slacking open.
"That feel good?"
"Tell me what happened and I'll do it again."
"Okay," Jenna said in a breathy whisper, grabbing onto his shoulder to steady herself through the pleasure. "I got him a gift."
"What kind of gift?"
"A toy, a sexy toy."
She shook her head. He gave her clit another brief rub. "Oh fuck." She felt that one shoot up her spine; it made her face tingle. "No, the toy was for him to use on me."
"Ah, I see. And he didn't want to use it?"
"No. He didn't want anything to do with it, told me that I had to return it."
"That's a shame."
Jenna forgot about Daniel's hand on her pussy for a moment and started unloading. "He's always doing shit like that," she said. "He never thinks about me; we only do what he wants to do. He told me I had to return the thing, and I was going to do it, too."
"You have it here with you?" he asked.
"I'd like to see it."
She hesitated, not sure if she wanted to cross any more boundaries than she had already.
"It's . . . it's in my purse over there."
Daniel let his hand fall from between her legs and scanned the room, seeing the oversized purse sitting on a chair near the door. He strolled over with intent and reached inside, pulling out a wooden paddle with little red hearts painted all over and the words "My Naughty Valentine" printed on one side in black. As soon as she saw that thing in his hands she felt like a fool.
"I never would have figured that you'd be into rough trade," he said as he looked back at Jenna and grinned. "You like the occasional spanking now and again, do you?"
"I've actually . . . um . . . never tried it before. I thought it might be, you know, fun?"
Daniel searched her body with his eyes. "Do you have any idea how hot you are, Mrs. Parker? I'm not just saying that. I've always thought so."
"Okay, this has gone far enough," she said. "You need to leave now."
"I think it'd be a shame if you didn't at least get your money's worth out of this thing," he said as he held the paddle in one hand and repeatedly smacked his palm.
"You can't be serious?"
He was, a fact which he demonstrated by sitting back down in his chair.
"Come on Mrs. Parker. Just a few smacks on the ass -- completely harmless. See if you really like it or not. I'll be gentle, don't worry."
"I'm not gonna let you spank me, that would be outrageous!" This was true, although suddenly she felt the urge to bend over Daniel's legs. She had no idea where it came from, never would.
"What if I confessed to the whole Valentine's Day card thing?" he said.
"Not much I can do about that now, can I?" she replied. "After what just happened here it'll be a miracle if I can keep my job."
"I won't rat you out," he said simply. "Besides, it's not me that you should be thinking about. Think about your husband. Do you really want him to win out here?"
"You son of a bitch. You're really bad, do you know that? Taking advantage of my marital problems like that." In truth Jenna was most angry at herself. She felt that somehow her problems at home and the current predicament stemmed from the same issue.
They stared at each other for minute, neither making a sound.
"You've done this kind of thing before?" she asked.
"No, but I've seen it done in videos and stuff. Doesn't look too difficult, spanking someone on the ass."
Eying him with suspicion, Jenna slowly removed her jacket, let it drop to the floor. She sauntered over to him, stopping just inches from the chair.
"Okay then, how do you want me?"
Daniel reached out and hooked her with his arm, forcefully bending her over his knees.
"Whoa, take it easy. You said you'd be gentle."
"Well I can't be too gentle, now can I? You've been such a bad girl Mrs. Parker, luring me into your office and seducing me like you did."
The line was cheesy enough to have come straight out of a porno, but Jenna decided to play along. She was also slightly indignant.
"What are you talking about? You seduced me."
Daniel put a hand over her mouth. "Quiet. I'm gonna give you the punishment you deserve." With his free hand he undid her pants and slid them down, revealing a pair of red silk panties. "Did you wear these for your husband last night?" he asked with a sinister laugh.
He slid the panties down too, revealing Jenna's smooth and supple flesh. Without a second's hesitation he picked up the paddle and brought it down on her left ass cheek.
"Uhmmmmffff," she cried into his hand.
"Too hard?" he asked, as nonchalantly as if he were discussing stock options with a good friend over drinks. Putting the paddle down, he gently rubbed the area, her skin already the same color as her suit from the blood that quickly infiltrated her tissues. He moved his fingers between her legs. Bringing them up, they were sticky with come. "Nope, I guess not."
He gave her another smack with the paddle, this one with more force. Searing pain ripped through her flesh, causing her to squeal harder.
"Again?" he asked her. By now she was breathing heavily into his hand. He had the paddle poised and ready for another strike.
At that moment something clicked in her head, and she realized what she had been missing out on her whole life. That moment that everything came into sharp focus and she felt a pleasure like she had never felt before. It started in her gut and rippled to the furthest reaches of her body, a velvety tidal wave that made her outer most extremities tingle and almost completely overshadowed the pain.
And then it was gone. She desperately needed that sublime feeling again. She nodded and he came down, taking her there again.
Forcing Daniel's hand from her mouth, she gasped. "Other side."
"I said switch to the other side."