The punishment I got the other day was marked by the longest wait I've had to endure between finding out I was going to be punished and finally getting it over with.
Do you know that in Tyrer v. the UK, the European Human Rights Court case that screwed judicial birching of juveniles forever, the Court was swayed, among other things, because the lad had to wait 3 days for his birching? Yup, the Court thought things like that made a punishment inhuman.* Well, I had to wait for 9 full days for my comeuppance, and it nearly killed me.
It so happened that earlier this month Abel and I left home on the same day to go in different directions: I was going to spend a couple of weeks with my parents in Kiev, and he was doing his usual flitting-about all business-like thing. He was coming home a week before my return.
"I wonder," he said on the phone just after getting home, "is there a good reason why the indicator on the gas boiler should be flashing red?"
I have a history with the gas boiler, documented for posterity, and rather unpleasant. "Um," I said, feeling slightly ill. "It's, um. I think it might be out of credit."
Silence was my answer. And then a few bad words, as my poor husband discovered that he'd returned to the house that had no heating on.
This is where I felt really bad. It was a cold night, and quite late at that; there was a good chance nowhere would be open for Abel to put money on the card, and what if he had to freeze all night just because I hadn't checked the credit before leaving? I didn't even think about being punished at that point: the thought of Abel having to spend all night in a cold house was tearing through me like a hooked claw.
Eventually he called back to say that he found an open shop, and that the heating was now on. And told me that I was going to be punished when I got home, though honestly, he didn't even have to tell me that: I'd figured it out by then.
For the most part, over the next week I was able to shove all thoughts of the impending whipping to the darkest, dustiest corner of my mind, though sometimes it felt like somebody had walked into that corner with a lamp, lighting up all the things I didn't want to look at. From time to time, all through the week, I would get a jab of "Oh shit, I'm getting a thrashing" feeling, which I would hurry to forget, but never for long.
The morning after my arrival home, Abel announced that after dinner that night he would cane me. I could have howled. After dinner? Why not before dinner? Why not mid-afternoon? Why not right then, for that matter - so OK, I had work to do, and he had a cricket game to go to,** but surely it could all wait half an hour? All these rather annoyed thoughts have found expression in one squeak:
"Yes," said Abel.
Seeing how I was in the doghouse to start with, and quite deservedly so, I chose to leave it and practise some more compartmentalisation.
It was a wise choice. In the end, Abel must have been as tired of waiting as I was, because, as soon as he was back from his game, he asked whether I wanted to get it over with now. Yes, yes, yes, I very much did. Funny how the fear of the cane got completely overshadowed by the need to get rid of the hulking great boulder of anticipation hanging over my head.
He lectured me, even though he didn't need to: I was sorry enough without it. He held me all through the lecture, which was nice. Then he told me to go to the spare room, and wait for him while he selected the cane. I didn't care to see what he'd chosen, and he didn't insist. He told me I would get 12.
The first of these felt like I'd never been caned before; like I'd never so much as felt the slightest tap before. I couldn't imagine ever having liked this sort of treatment, or having been into it. I think I howled. My memory about the rest of the punishment gets slightly fuzzy here, as though the remaining 11 strokes were one long stretch of pain. I didn't cry, but I did jump around a fair bit. Abel might have lightened up after the first one, or he might have gone on as hard as he'd started, I really couldn't tell. All I know is that it was a hell of a hard caning.
Maybe next time I'll just choose to wait for my punishment indefinitely.
* Just saying.
** Yes, really, he's just that boring; thank God it's not golf, or I never would have married him.