Authors: Fiona Wilde
An Old-Fashioned Education
©2014 by Blushing Books® and Fiona Wilde
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An Old-Fashioned Education
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This book is intended for
. Spanking and other sexual activities represented in this book are fantasies only, intended for adults. Nothing in this book should be interpreted as Blushing Books' or the author's advocating any non-consensual spanking activity or the spanking of minors.
Table of contents:
Blushing Books Newsletter
The end of February wasn’t exactly the best time to start a new teaching job. It was still winter, with the promise of spring well in the distance. Students got restless. Attention spans dwindled. Interest in math, science and grammar melted away with the snow. Even for a seasoned teacher who knew her students, spring represented a challenge. For a young, idealistic first year teacher the challenge would be even greater.
But Pollyanna Perkins liked a challenge. What’s more, she felt almost divinely called to the unique job of teaching at the one-room schoolhouse in the remote enclave of Pepper’s Hollow. The job had come along just when she’d needed it. And, she had decided, just when the Pepper Hollow School needed her. Pollyanna Perkins didn’t consider herself just any teacher, after all. She’d graduated top of her class from an exclusive private teaching college. Age and maturity had given her an advantage over the younger students. For a number of years, she’d worked in the publishing industry before feeling the call to make more of a difference. AS a result, she’d decided to pursue her teaching degree and had decided that this job was a sign she’d made the right decision.
By all accounts, Pepper’s Hollow was a simple, if not honest intentional community. It was not exactly a commune since people all owned their own land and businesses. The people were mainly farmers and craftsmen. Families had gravitated to intentional communities since the 1920’s and the unique, hardworking culture spawned many articles about how the places had seemed trapped in something of a time warp. The Pepper’s Hollow school, which 100% of the town's children attended, was private. It concentrated on the basics—the Three R’s—and they still used McGuffey’s Readers. After school, the younger children played while the older ones spent part of their afternoons working as apprentices in one of the crafting or gardening trades offered by the community.
When Pollyanna interviewed via teleconference, for it had been snowing too badly for anyone to reach Pepper’s Hollow, the panel of parents who made the decisions for the school were adamant that their philosophy remain simple.
“We believe in having kids learn a trade before they even think about college,” said the spokesman, a tall sandy-haired man who identified himself as Walt. “So we want the focus kept on the basics. We think what worked for folks in the old days is still the best recipe.”
Pollyanna had bitten her tongue. These people needed her. The basics? One could not compete in today’s world with the basics. They were clearly brainwashing their children. Was it ethical of her to pretend to agree? Probably not, she thought. But she told herself that sometimes, to make a difference, one had to bend the rules a little. If that meant earning the trust of a group of old-fashioned people and working from within to give their kids a better life, then so be it.
So she’d parroted their beliefs and won their trust. It reminded her of her activist days in college when she’d gotten into an anti-feminist group with the sole purpose of writing a scathing article about what a bunch of idiotic throwbacks they were. Maybe, Pollyanna thought, she’d write a book about her experiences in Pepper’s Hollow.
She wasn’t surprised when she’d gotten the job. Had it been a more welcoming time of the year, there would have been more competition. But few people wanted to start a job in the middle of the year that required a snowcat to get them to their destination. Pollyanna wasn’t a stranger to harsh conditions. She’s hiked the Adirondacks and even gone trekking in Greenland for a travel piece she’d written. In preparation for her new job, she spent hours reading about homesteading and the back-to-the-land movement. She felt sure she could walk the walk of the parents of Pepper’s Hollow even as she inspired the kids to something greater.
It wasn’t that she looked down on the lifestyle. It was just that, as the holder of three advanced degrees, she thought it terribly irresponsible for any parent not to consider college for their kids. And she believed if a child was challenged and made to realize their parents might not be right about everything, they would want more for themselves than a future throwing pots, quilting or growing hydroponic vegetables.
And now she was closer than ever to changing those lives.
The air was so cold at the little airstrip where she’d landed that it seemed to crackle. The thermometer read five degrees below zero. Pollyanna had only been standing outside three minutes and already her toes had gone numb.
“I thought someone was supposed to meet me here.” She turned to the pilot, who was dumping her bags in the snow outside the plane. “Excuse me! Is someone meeting me here or not?”
The man glanced at her and dumped another bag on the ground. “It’s 10:30,” he said. “We’re a half hour early.”
Pollyanna glanced at her watch. He was right. “Well yeah,” she said. “But still, whoever is picking me up should have come early just in case.”
“You want some free advice?” The pilot dumped the last bag on the ground at his feet. “You’d be smart not to go getting too bossy with Walt when he gets here.”
“Walt Springer?” He’d been the spokesman for the group that had interviewed Pollyanna.
“Yeah, Walt,” the man replied. “They aren’t used to women acting all uppity.”
For a moment Pollyanna had a hard time thinking of a reply. When it finally came, it was mockingly sweet. “Oh really?” she asked. “Well, I’ll do my best to act like a stupid little housewife, then.”
The pilot regarded her for a moment and then shook his head. “Man,” he said. “They must have been desperate for teachers to hire somebody with an attitude like yours. None of the women in Pepper’s Hollow are stupid, unless there are some I haven’t met. And I’m pretty sure I know all of them. Those girls are tough. And smart. Drop any one of them in the woods tonight and she could take care of herself.”
Pollyanna nodded, but her expression was mocking. “What would happen if you dropped one of those uneducated women in the middle of a city and told them to provide for themselves without a man’s help?”
The pilot regarded her with something between distaste and amusement. “Well, ma’am, they haven’t chosen the city. They’ve chosen the wilderness. But I’m thinking they’d do better in the city than you’ll do out here.”
He tipped his hat to her. “Ma’am.”
Pollyanna watched as the man headed back to his airplane. “Hey,” she said, hurrying after him. “Hey! You aren’t just leaving me here, are you?”
“I sure am!” he responded lightly, hopping into his plane and looking up at the sky. “Storm’s comin’. Last thing I want is to get caught in it.”
“But what about me? No one’s here yet!”
The pilot shrugged. “Smart, educated girl like you. I’m sure you can take care of yourself.”
He slammed the door and the rotor of the plane began to spin. Pollyanna stood there, disbelieving what she was seeing. He was leaving her. The plane turned and began to taxi down the runway. A moment later it had taken off and was a speck against the dark gray sky. Pollyanna rubbed her hands together, trying to decide whether to be terrified or relieved. She was uneasy being alone, but at the same time was glad that the pilot would not be there when—or if —she got picked up. She should have held her tongue. If Walt Springer knew what she really thought of them, she’d be out of a job.
She heard a rumbling noise and turned. Through the trees, she could see a glow. Headlights. She peered through the blowing snow, her teeth chattering, and was soon able to make out a snowcat. The machine rumbled towards her. She stomped to keep the blood circulating in her feet and tried not to look as uncomfortable as she felt.
The machine stopped about twenty yards from where she was standing. The door opened and Walt Springer stepped out. He was taller than she’d thought he’d be. Much taller. He was solid, too. Muscular. She could see that even though he wore a heavy jacket.
“Polly Perkins?” he asked.
“Pollyanna Perkins,” she corrected. “You must be Walt Springer.”
“Yep.” He trudged past her. “These your bags?”
“Yes.” She followed. “But I can get them.” The taunt of the pilot was still in her ears; she did not want Walt to think she needed help getting her own belongings into the snowcat. But by the time she reached them, he’d already gathered half.
“I can get them, really,” she said.
He ignored her. “If you want you can get the smaller ones.”
She stood her ground. “Mr. Springer!”
He turned. “Yes?”
“I’m perfectly capable of carrying my own bags,” she said.
His expression did not change. “That’s good to hear,” he said. And then he turned back and carried the bags to the snowcat.
Pollyanna prepared a speech entitled, “Respect for Women”, all the way to the vehicle, but she decided against delivering it. This man represented all that was wrong with uneducated people. Trying to convert him would be a lost cause. But the children—the children she could help.
She climbed into the snowcat. It was warm in the cab, but the quarters were cramped.
“How far is it?” she asked.
“That’s not far, at least,” she said. He looked at her and laughed.
“Maybe not on paved roads, but on our trails…”
“So how long are we looking at?”
He handed her a Thermos. “You might want to pour yourself some coffee and sip on it to pass the time.”
She took the Thermos. The snowcat lurched and groaned and moved back towards the tree line.
“So do you have a child in Pepper’s Hollow School?”
“Two,” he said. “Aidan and Kerry. Aidan is eight and Kerry is six.”
“What do you and your wife do?” she asked.
“I’m a metal worker,” he said. “My wife is doing whatever she does since she left. We haven’t heard from her in a year.”
Pollyanna pondered this. She wanted to ask the obvious questions—the ones born of the preconceptions she harbored about the community she’d be calling home until she’d had a lasting impact. Had Walt Springer’s wife left because she’d decided the life was to simplistic— and too unrealistic—for a modern woman?
She waited for him to offer an explanation, but he didn’t.
“So,” she said. “Tell me more about your community.”
He glanced over at her. “There’s not much more to tell you beyond what you already know. We’re a simple community. We subscribe to simple philosophies for ourselves, our families and our way of life. We don’t use much outside technology: no Internet, no smart phones. We have televisions, but only for educational DVD’s.
Pollyanna listened politely.
“Well, just playing devil’s advocate here, but what happens if one of your kids decides they want to leave and go somewhere else? The world expects proficiency in the things you eschew.”
“How hard can those things be if the average college grad knows how to do them?” he asked. “Our kids spend their whole loves learning, Ms. Perkins. And I’d wager that what they’ve learned by the time they’re fifteen is more complex than pushing a few buttons.”
Pollyanna bit her tongue and concentrated on the scenery. The mountains around her were rugged. Snow was starting to fall. The ancient pines stood like sentinels guarding the narrow and winding trail.
“Well, I brought a few things with me that the kid might enjoy using,” she said carefully. “You know, just some simple technology to get them used to at least handling–”
“No.” Suddenly the snowcat ground to a halt and he turned to her.
“Ms. Perkins,” he said. “Did we not make it clear to you when we conducted the interview that we do not want even simple technology to become part of our kids’ lives?”
“Well yes,” she said. “But I thought…”
“Whatever it was, you thought wrong,” he said. “Or maybe you just assumed that you could come up here and disobey me once you were hired.”
Pollyanna bristled at the word disobey.
“Excuse me, Mr. Springer, but I am not one of your children.”
“No, but you need to understand that in this community, rules are rules and when they are laid down there are consequences for breaking them. You signed an agreement upon accepting the job in which the rules were stated. Among the first three was that no outside technology would be employed in the teaching of our children. We have all you will need right there in the school.”
His voice was calm but firm. The bravado that Pollyanna felt was melting away. Why had she thought it was even a good idea to test the waters?
“What did you bring?”
She sighed. “A laptop.”
“When we get to our community I’m going to have to ask that you hand it over.”
“Look,” he said. “It’s snowing. It’s too late to turn back. You’ve signed a contract and we’re nearly there.” He began to drive again, glancing at her as he spoke. “If you want to strike on principle over this, fine. But you won’t eat if you do. Everyone in Pepper’s Hollow has a job, and like it or not, yours is teacher, at least until you decide you can get back down the mountain. And judging by this snowfall, it’s going to be a while.”
“I never said I was going to strike,” Pollyanna said indignantly. “And I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“Then you shouldn’t mind handing the laptop over when we arrive,” he said.
“Certainly,” Pollyanna said, although inside she was still seething. But she felt a sense of satisfaction, too. She had more than one laptop; she’d give him the older one. The newer one had a wireless card. And then there was her iPad; the kids would love that. But she’d have to wait. She’d not expected Walt Springer to react so have such an intense reaction to what she thought should be every kids’ birthright.
“We have the latest set of encyclopedias and a whole library of other reference material,” he said. “In fact, we have so much that last year we added a little library onto the school.”
There was no mistaking the pride in his voice and Pollyanna felt herself touched in spite of her misgivings.
“Look,” he said. “I know that our ways may seem different to you, but you said in the interview that you had an open mind and Ms. Perkins, let me tell you right now that you are going to need it. When I said we were a simple people, I meant just that; not only will you not find technology here, but you won’t find political correctness, either. We live in much the way that our forefathers did. We work the land. The families here are led by strong men and the women accept that in a completely submissive fashion.”
Pollyanna shook her head. “Whoa, wait a minute. What do you mean by submissive?”
The snowcat ground around a corner. Ahead in the forest, Pollyanna could see cabins. They looked homey, welcoming. Lights shone golden through the windows.
“Exactly what I said,” he replied. “The women here are submissive.”
“You didn’t say anything about that,” she replied. “And I am not a submissive person, so don’t even think–”
“I’m talking about our wives,” he said. “No one is asking you to be submissive, except to the rules. And I believe you’ve already promised to abide by them.”
“Yes,” she said haltingly.
“So you’ve agreed in your own way to be submissive.”
Snow was falling in huge fat flakes now. Above them, the fir canopies were already getting a coat of white.
“Why do you feel the need to tell me this?” she asked.
Walter Springer guided the snowcat into a big pole barn and cut the engine.
“Because,” he said, “the fact that you brought the laptop tells me something about you. It tells me that you may have ulterior motives, and that you weren’t as on board with our philosophy as we’d hoped. We screened our potential teachers for a reason, Ms. Perkins. We wanted a teacher here who would replace the one we lost. We wanted a teacher who would support our values, even if she did not completely understand them or agree with them. We wanted someone open-minded, someone who would not betray us.”
“Is that what happened with your former teacher?” she asked. “Did she disagree with the way things were done around here?”
“Not every person understands our way of life,” he said.
“But is that what happened?” she asked again.
They stared at each other through the dim light of the cab.
“If you must know, Ms. Perkins, yes, that’s exactly what happened. The teacher you’re replacing betrayed us all. She betrayed our community and she betrayed the children in her care.” He looked away. “Two in particular.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” she said. “Did you try to work things out with her? I’d like to know, because we may have differences. Communication is important.”
“Every effort that could be made was made,” he replied. “But things will be done differently this time around. I intend to make sure we are not betrayed again, so you can expect me to run a tight ship, Ms. Perkins. A very tight ship. And if that ship is rocked, you can expect consequences.”
She grew quiet. “Can I ask one more question? What was the teacher’s name?”
He paused, and for a moment she wasn’t sure if he was going to answer.
“The woman you’re replacing is Melissa Springer,” he said. “She was my wife.”
Pollyanna didn’t feel so confident anymore. What had she gotten herself into? Snow was already coating the ground and the forest around the little compound was so thick that even if it weren’t below zero and snowing she’d never find her way through it. And to top it off, the man who’d hired her had a chip on his shoulder following the departure of the teacher she was replacing—the teacher who had also just happened to be his wife.
Walt Springer had warned her not to defy him, but as Polly settled into the little cabin that had been erected just for her, she found that her resolve to do just that was growing. True to his word, Walt had confiscated the laptop she’d brought. He’d taken pains to unapologetically reiterate the community’s long-held belief that too much technology led to social detachment, reduced physical activity and a diminishment in imaginary play among children.
“When they’re older, they can make the decisions for themselves as to whether they want to use that stuff,” Walt had said.
Polly had bitten her tongue to keep from arguing that preschool kids were learning computer basics these days, and when and if the Pepper’s Hollow children every left they’d find themselves surrounded by technology that everyone around them was already using with ease. She also wanted to tell Walt that he was a hypocrite; he and the other board members of the school had interviewed her via teleconference through a local service in the nearest town a hundred miles away, so they apparently had no problem using computer equipment if they needed it. She mentally compared them to some Amish people she’d heard about who used buggies on principle but who could still be caught clandestinely hitching a ride in a car to town.
But she said nothing, and now as she unpacked her bag and pulled out the second laptop and the iPad she’d secretly hung onto, she tried to think of the best way to incorporate technology into her lessons without the parents—particularly Walt Springer—finding out.
He’d said women in the community were “submissive.” Polly scoffed at the recollection. It was time the residents of Pepper’s Hollow got it through their collective granola-crunching heads that not everyone would assimilate into their backwards culture, even if they were trapped there for the winter.
A knock at the door interrupted her thoughts. Polly called out to the visitor that she was coming as she hurriedly stuffed the laptop, iPad and assorted cords back into her suitcase. For good measure, she leaned down and slid it under the bed before walking through the cabin’s one room to open the door.
A beautiful woman with long auburn hair stood on her stoop. She was smiling and holding a basket.
“Hi,” she said. “I’m Noni.” She held out a hand.
Polly accepted the handshake. “Hi. I’m Polly.”
She stepped aside. “Please come in out of the cold.”
Noni stepped in and looked around. “Wow, they did a good job.”
“Excuse me?” Polly asked.
Noni gestured to the interior of the room. “The cabin,” she said. “I haven’t been in here since they finished it. Walt and the guys decided a single teacher would need his or her own cabin and so they built this after …” Her voice trailed off and then she suddenly handed Polly the basket, as if eager to change the subject. “I brought food. There’s flour, sugar, you know, all the staples you’ll need. I put a few loaves of bread and some jam in there, too.”
Polly took the basket. “Thanks so much.” She paused. “It’s okay, Noni. I know about Walt’s wife. He told me.”
Noni’s eyes widened. “Really? I’m surprised. He never talks about it.”
Polly walked over and put the basket on the kitchen counter. “Well, maybe he’s ready to move on. Having a spouse leave is hard, but it can be an important lesson if it teaches us to be more careful of how we treat others.”
“Oh, it wasn’t him,” Noni said, her tone almost frantic in its defensiveness. “Walt loved Melissa very much. He adored her and gave her the guidance and protection every woman dreams of.”
Polly turned. “Are you sure that’s what every woman dreams of?” she asked. “Some women dream of making their own way. Perhaps that was Melissa’s dream.”
Noni stopped, her expression slightly dazed, as if such a peculiar thought had never occurred.
“I shouldn’t be talking about this anyway,” Noni said quietly. “I just wanted to bring you the food. Sometimes I forget not to gossip, and if Paul finds out I did, then I won’t sit down for a week.”
Polly shook her head, confused. “What?” she asked. “Who’s Paul?”
“My husband,” Noni said. “He knows I struggle with gossip.”
There was another knock at the door and Polly turned, exasperated, to answer it.
“Mr. Springer,” she said. “Hello.”
“Ms. Perkins,” he said, and then looked past her. “I see Noni’s already come to welcome you.”
“Yes,” she said. “She brought me food.”
“And if you need anything else, don’t fail to let me know,” Noni said, hurrying out the door. Polly looked past her and the turned to Walt Springer. She wasn’t sure of just how to ask what she wanted to ask him other than just to come out and say it.
“Mr. Springer, do the men in this community hit their wives?”
He crossed his arms. “Why would you ask a question like that?”
Polly took note that he did not instantly deny it.
“Because Noni just said something rather odd, and as a professional member of this community, I’d like to know whether I should be concerned about the safety of the women and children here.”
The door was still cracked a bit and Walt closed it. Then he walked over and tossed another log on the fire before turning back towards Polly.
“Did Noni say her husband spanked her?” Walt asked.
Polly was surprised at how directly and calmly the community leader addressed the topic. He didn’t seem at all defensive; in fact, his tone was almost challenging.
“She alluded to it, yes,” Polly said. “And if that’s the case then Noni needs to be in a safe place and her husband needs to get some counseling for his anger.”
“I’ve known Paul for thirteen years, Ms. Perkins,” Walt replied. “I’ve never seen that man lose his temper. He’s the most thoughtful person I know.”
“So you’re saying she lied?”
“No,” he replied. “I know that Paul has spanked Noni when she deserved it.”
“Now you’re contradicting yourself, Mr. Springer.” Polly felt herself getting angry. “You can’t say he doesn’t lose his temper and then turn around and say you know he’s hit her.”
“Hit her? No. A spanking is not the same thing as hitting.”
“Hitting is hitting, Mr. Springer,” Polly said.
“Hitting is hitting,” he agreed. “And we did have one man here seven years ago, who struck his wife in anger. He hit her across the face one night during a fight. He was asked to leave, but only after he got a few punches in the face from his male neighbors. Violence against women is not tolerated, Ms. Perkins. However, loving correction from a male authority figure to a disobedient female in his charge is not just tolerated, it is absolutely encouraged.”
Polly was silent for a moment. “You know, I can’t believe I’m hearing this,” she replied when she found her voice. “No wonder you people isolate yourselves up here! If you tried living like this, the men of this community would be hauled away, and rightfully so.”
She went to the bed, reached down and pulled out her suitcase. “I’m sorry, Mr. Springer, but I can’t stay here now knowing what I know. I need to get back to civilization.” She turned. “I demand that you take me to the nearest town. I may not have been able to help the kids here the way I’d hoped, but once I get the attention of the necessary authorities you can be sure they will.”
Walt Springer didn’t move. Instead, he stood there studying her.
“There’s already four inches of snow on the ground,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter,” she said obstinately. “You have that snow machine. You can make it through. And it’s illegal for you to hold me here so you have to.”
“Tell me, Ms. Perkins,” he said. “What did you mean when you said you wouldn’t be able to help the kids the way you’d hoped?”
Polly was piqued that he’d ignored her demand to leave. She didn’t feel that she owed this man an answer, but at this point she also didn’t feel that she had anything to lose. If he wouldn’t take her back, she’d hook up her computer with the wireless card and email for help if she had to.
“I lied, okay?” she said. “When you described your community, I saw a great chance to educate not just the students, but a bunch of parents who were denying their children the right to ride the wave of technology the rest of the world is surfing.
He regarded her before speaking. “Do you remember in the interview how we stressed the importance of honesty in communication?”
She looked down. “Yes,” Polly replied. “But however wrong you think I am, what’s going on here is more wrong.”
He stepped towards her. “Ms. Perkins,” he said. “You know nothing of us. You’ve not met a single member of this community aside from me and Noni, but you’re going to base your opinion of us on something she said–”
“And you confirmed!” Polly replied hotly. “You admitted that the women here are beaten.”
“I did not.” His voice was dangerously low now. “Our women have never been beaten. They are spanked if they flagrantly and defiantly break rules they agreed to obey.”
He was closer to her now and Polly felt herself backing away in spite of herself.
“As far as I’m concerned, Ms. Perkins, that describes you quite accurately.”
Polly made to move past Walt Springer, but he took hold of her arm.
“Tell me,” he continued. “What would you do in my position? What would you do after you assured the others on the board that you’d found a perfect person to fill a position, flew that person out at both community and personal expense and then found out that they’d lied not just to you, but to everyone else?”
Polly’s heart was pounding. “I’d send them back.”
“Believe me, I’d like to,” Walt said. “But that’s not an option. We don’t have much in the way of technology up here, but we do have a radio and it appears that the snow you see outside is the leading edge of what locals call a hundred year blizzard. You’re here until spring at least, like it or not. And because I take responsibility for this community and you’ve revealed yourself to me as someone who cannot be trusted, I’m going to do something I would not ordinarily do to a woman who is not my own.”
Polly tried to jerk her arm away. “What the hell are you talking about?”
He ignored her. “I’m going to spank you,” he said. “You seem to think women here are beaten, but I’m going to show you exactly what happens to them when they break the rules. Afterwards, you can decide if you want a repeat. Come spring, if you still think women here are abused then I’ll haul you down to the valley and you can unleash any authority on me that you like. But for the moment, I’m the only authority around here.”
He pulled a chair from the table and sat down, pulling Polly over his lap. At first, she was too shocked to resist, but when his arm went around her waist in a restraining grip, she panicked and began to struggle. But it was no use. Walt Springer was strong, and when he began to spank her, all she could do was kick and curse. Polly was wearing blue jeans, but the denim fabric only staved off the burn of the punishment for a few seconds. Soon a stinging heat suffused her bottom and quickly grew from painful to unbearable.
“Stop!” she cried, but was unable to do anything to make that happen. Walt continued to spank her, his arm seemingly robotic in its assault. Polly pushed against his leg, the floor, anything she thought might give her some leverage to escape. But it was hopeless. The burning pain in her backside had pushed her beyond indignant cries into pathetic sobs and apologies, which were at first perfunctory and then heartfelt.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” she cried. And she was, for even though she couldn’t believe what was happening, in the back of her mind Polly knew she’d been wrong to lie to Walt Springer and the others. She’d been wrong to come to Pepper’s Hollow with her own agenda when she’d assured them all that she was on board with their philosophy. Maybe, she thought, this was karma paying her back. But if it was, karma hurt. Karma hurt a lot.
“Please let me go!” she cried again. She was feeling weak from fighting Walt and slowly gave up. She no longer pushed against him or the floor but instead just kept her palms down and cried out as her bottom absorbed the impact of each punishing blow of his hand. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he stopped. Polly felt shaky and disoriented as he tipped her back up to standing. Her hands flew back to rub the sting out of her backside, but Walt caught her wrists and restrained them in front of her.
“No,” he said. “You’re going to feel this for a while. In fact, I want you to go over here–” He got up and led her to the corner of the room. “–putting your pretty nose in that corner. And while you’re there I want you to think about how you’d feel if you were in our situation.”
Polly said nothing. She was too afraid to. But behind her she could hear a zipping sound and her heart sank as she realized that he was going through her suitcase.
“Computer,” she heard him say. “Gadget. Another gadget. Wow, Ms. Perkins. When you mislead someone, you really go all out.”
He walked over to her, carrying the laptop and iPad. “So just what were you going to do with these, young lady? You gave me your other computer. Were you planning to use these in your classroom? And don’t lie to me, because I’ll know.”
Polly sniffed pitifully. She was shaking and scared. Never in her life had she been spanked, or even confronted for her wrongdoings. Not in this manner, at least. She felt small and guilty.
“I thought maybe if you changed your mind…”
“Well, I’m going to keep these until you leave,” he said. “That’s not going to be any time soon, so you should know that I’m appointing myself your guardian until–”
Despite her fear, Polly found herself turning to glare at the man who had just spanked her. “I don’t need a guardian.”
“Well, you’re going to get one,” he said. “You’ve come here under false pretenses and are now stuck here. You can’t be trusted, Ms. Perkins, and you won’t be until you earn back that trust. Whether you care to do that or not is up to you. And since you came here with the intention of infiltrating and subverting our way of life, I can’t help but consider you a danger to this community, which is why you’ll answer to me.”
“And if I don’t want to?” she asked angrily, even though tears still hung from the long lashes above her eyes.
“Then next time you’ll be spanked on the bare bottom,” he said. “And maybe that will convince you that there are worse things in life than answering to me.”
“You can’t do this!” she said, breaking into sobs again.
“Too late,” he replied. “I already am.”
He turned. “I’m going to go tend to my kids now,” he said. “You’re free to stay here unsupervised. I’d suggest you get some rest and we’ll talk tomorrow.”
Polly heard him go out the door. She still had a surreal feeling about the situation. Had what just happened really just happened? The throbbing hurt in her buttocks answered a painful, “Yes.”
She looked out the window. The snow was coming down hard. She could barely see through the white now. But they had come in on a road, she thought. And roads lead out. But the one they’d come in on led to an airstrip with no building or anything. Polly suddenly felt completely desolate and hopeless. She allowed her hands to drop to her bottom and rub. It was incredibly tender and sore. She began to cry again, wondering how she could have been so ridiculous.
“I can’t do this!” she thought. “I can’t stay here.”
Then she remembered that Walt Springer had said they had a radio. Was it a two-way radio? Did they possibly have a satellite phone? She wondered where they might be housed. The equipment shed, maybe? She’d seen another building beside it, a smaller building. Could that be the communications center, if a rinky-dink community like Pepper’s Hollow even had something like that? There was only one way to find out. Polly pulled on her jacket and with shaking fingers fastened the button. She put on a scarf and then an overcoat. No way was she going to stand by and let this man boss her around and spank her like a preschooler until spring thaw, which around here might be sometime in July. She was going to find a radio even if she had to break into one of the buildings to do it. And once she did, she’d call for help and tell Walt Springer to go straight to hell.
Polly’s teeth were chattering. She’d never felt this kind of cold. The wind stung her cheeks as bits of ice flew into her face. It even hurt to breathe air this cold. But still she pushed on, keeping close to the buildings and praying she would not be spotted. Her bottom was still sore from the spanking she’d received over Walt Springer’s lap. The outrage she felt motivated her to press on towards the little building beside the equipment shed, where she prayed she’d find a satellite phone or working radio.
She heard a noise and ducked down by a large box holding firewood. It was coming from the trees near the building. Her heart pounded. What was it? She saw movement and felt relief when the two deer that had spotted her bounded away, their tails raised in alarm as they ran.
By the time she reached the little building, her fingers were burning from the cold.
“Please don’t be locked!” she prayed as she turned the knob. It opened, and she felt a another flash of relief. Of course it was open; there were no outsiders here to worry about. Everyone obviously trusted everyone else.
She smiled when she saw the interior of the little building. A long bank of tables lay against the wall. On it were controls for various things; she assumed one of the contraptions controlled the floodlights she’d seen outside. She wondered why the compound would have floodlights out in the middle of nowhere. The other table held a radio. She did not see a satellite phone. She turned off the flashlight she was holding and ducked down, looking over the windowsill. It had occurred to her that the shine of her flashlight might alert someone. She felt her way across the floor. When she reached the table, she reached up, her hands feeling around for the radio. Polly felt the edge of it and pulled it forward across the rough wood surface of the table.
The radio stopped moving. Polly felt around. There was a knot in the wood. She pulled it harder and gasped when it fell to the floor. She heard a sickening crack of the housing.
“Oh God.” She felt a new kind of chill as she picked it up. In the dark, there was no way to examine what had been broken.
Polly sat there, unsure of what to do. Somewhere a dog bark and she felt panic rise in her chest. She switched on the flashlight, shielding it with her glove and felt a wave of nausea. The housing was cracked. Wires hung out the back. She pushed a button on the front. Nothing happened.
Her heart began to pound. What had she done? The community relied on this radio to keep in touch with the outside world.
She laid the flashlight on the floor and with shaking hands lifted the radio back up and slid it across the table until it roughly in the position it had been in before she touched it. Then Polly lay down on the floor and inched towards the door. Tears froze on her face when she got outside. She was heartsick about what she’d done, and so emotionally wrought that she was weak with guilt by the time she got back to her cabin.
She stripped quickly of her snow-dampened clothing and warmed herself before the fire. The fire. Had it been blazing this high when she’d left? She seemed to recall just some glowing embers. Had Walt Springer stoked them and added wood before he’d left? Her head felt foggy from the overload of emotions.
Polly had not even unpacked and at that moment she didn’t feel like it. She only wanted to lie down, to sleep and escape the turmoil her life had fallen into. She pulled on her flannel pajamas and a pair of soft, fuzzy socks. The bed in the cabin was in the corner of the one large room. She was relieved to find that it was comfortable. The heavy quilt was warm and the sheets soft. As she lay there feeling the chill leave her body, she wondered what she was going to do next. Her plan to contact someone who could help her leave had ended in disaster, and while she was not a religious person, she found herself praying that the community of Pepper’s Hollow had some a satellite phone or some other means of communication aside from the radio.
She drifted off to sleep with those thoughts in mind and woke the next morning to the sound of an alarm clock. It was 7 a.m.
Polly sat up and blinked. The sky outside the window was dark, and she could see snow piled on the sills of her windows. She got up and dressed in the warmest clothes she had. The jacket she’d hung by the fire the night before was dry. She donned it along with a scarf and a toboggan. She pulled on knee-high sheepskin-lined boots over her jeans, grateful that she’d thought to waterproof them before making the trip. She decided she would take a walk to clear her head, but before she could a crackling sound startled her. She was surprised to see the sound had come from a walkie-talkie on the table in front of the sofa.
She swallowed in fear at the sound of Walt Springer’s voice. “Are you ready for your first day of teaching?”
She glanced towards the window. “You send the kids to school in this weather?”
“Yes.” It was a simple, one-word reply.
“We’re in the main hall having breakfast. The snow’s only seven inches at this point. It shouldn’t be too bad a slog. I expect you here in ten minutes.”
It didn’t sound like a request, but an order. However, Polly was relieved that he didn’t sound angry, which meant he hadn’t discovered the radio. Good. Time was on her side. The longer the damage went undiscovered, the less likely she’d be considered a suspect. The door was left unlocked, after all, and given the culture of punishment within the community she doubted anyone would own up their misdeeds. The thought gave Polly some satisfaction; it was another flaw in Walt’s philosophy that spanking was an appropriate remedy for misbehavior. It didn’t stop it; it only encouraged miscreants to be more cagey. She wondered as she walked to the dining hall whether Noni resented her husband for spanking her.
Her eyes immediately sought out Noni when she reached the hall. She did not know anyone else and was in no mood to see Walt Springer. But as soon as she walked in, she was mobbed by parents.
“It’s so good to see you!” said a pretty auburn-haired woman with a kerchief on her head. She wore overalls stained with dried clay; Polly knew right away she was a potter.
“I’m Willow Criner,” the woman said. “My son Peter will be one of your students.” Behind her, an impish-looking little boy smiled a gap-tooth smile. When Polly smiled back, Peter giggled and ran away.
“He’s a bit of a handful,” Willow said. “If he gives you any problem at all, just talk to me or my husband Benjamin.”
“You can always talk to the parents,” another man said. Polly turned to see a mountain of a man sporting a bushy beard and kind, twinkling eyes. His plaid shirt was spread across his chest like a tablecloth and his blue jeans were held up by suspenders.
“I’m Harry Hart,” he said. “My daughter Sunny will be one of your students as well. I apologize that my wife Greta isn’t here to greet you, but Sunny’s going to be having a baby brother or sister any day and I don’t want her trekking through the snow in these conditions.”
“That’s kind of you,’ Polly said before being distracted by another parent. She’d greeted all of them and met their enthusiastic kids before she even got a chance to sit down for breakfast. The meal was indeed a community affair, and everyone seemed to get along well. Again, she felt reassured; if Walt Springer had discovered the radio, surely the mood of the community would have been more somber.
Noni came over to the table where Polly was sitting. She had her tray of food and put it on the table.
“How are you?” she asked Polly. “Mind if I sit here?”
“No, not at all!” Polly said, but Noni continued to stand before sighing and sitting down. Polly noticed that as she did so, she visibly winced. She could relate; her bottom was still a little sore from the spanking that Walt had delivered, but not so much that it hurt to sit. Polly recalled Noni’s comment about how she wasn’t supposed to gossip; she wondered if Walt had found out and told Noni’s husband. As if summoned by the thought, he appeared at her side. Noni’s spouse was a tall, handsome man with a square jaw, intense eyes and unruly chestnut hair.
“The new teacher, I presume,” he said.
Polly nodded. “Pollyanna Perkins.”
She extended her hand and he took it. “Paul Stone. My wife told me all about you when she got back from the cabin. I apologize if she went a little overboard with information.” He glanced at his wife. “We’re working on that thought, aren’t we, honey?”
Noni flushed and nodded submissively. Polly tried not to show her distaste.
“Sleep well?” Paul asked.
Polly nodded. “Yes, the cabin is very warm and the bed was comfortable.
“We’re glad it met with your liking,” Paul said. “And we sure hope you like it here, especially since there’s no way out for a while.” He shook his head. “Walt said that they’re saying this is one of the worst blizzards to hit this area in fifty years.”
“So did he find this out today?” Polly asked, fishing. “I mean, how did he get that information. I know you guys are against technology.”
“Not totally,” Paul said. “We have a radio in the shed near where we keep the equipment. We had two, but one malfunction a week before you got here. We’ve got parts ordered, but they won’t be here till spring now. So we’re stuck with the one.”
Polly looked down at her plate, afraid that the couple would see the worry in her eyes.
“Isn’t that kind of risky?” she asked. “Just having the one?”
“Not really,” Paul said. “The one in the shed is practically new. Those things last forever if you take care of them. And we do, because they are our lifelines. We take care of ourselves up here, but you never know when something might happen that we can’t handle.
Polly returned her attention to her food, afraid that that Paul would see her guilty expression if she looked up. Had she really left them—and herself—without a link to the outside world? She prayed the radio could be easily fixed.
“Enjoying your breakfast?” Walt Springer had walked over. After the spanking, Polly had vowed she would never speak to him again. But now she was afraid not to. She needed to act cool and normal, as if the painful spanking she’d received from him the night before had not been that big a deal. Best not to arouse his suspicions when—she didn’t want to even think about it.
“Yes,” she said. “It’s good. But I’m going to go ahead and get to the classroom if you folks don’t mind. I like to be prepared before the kids get there.”
“I’ll walk you over,” Walt said.
Men were out snow blowers, clearing a path to the school. Polly cast a sidelong glance at the building near the equipment shed. The windows were dark; no one was inside.
The school building was one large room and she could instantly tell that the community had put a lot of work into it. The desks were all hand-made and sturdy; a shelf ran along the entire side of one wall and full of all sorts of books and educational aids. Laminated posters of the seven continents, solar system and grammatical tips were neatly pinned to the wall. Her desk was a dream come true. Most teachers had to buy their own supplies but here she had everything she could need from staplers to incentive stickers for the younger children.
“Wow,” she said.
“Glad you like it,” Walt replied. “A good teacher needs good tools.”
“Still sure you want me to teach your children?” Polly asked. “It’s a lot to expect from a woman you treated like a child just eight hours ago.” She’d not mean to sound bitter, or to reference the spanking. But she could not stop herself.
“I didn’t treat you like a child, Ms. Perkins,” he said. “I corrected you as men here in Pepper’s Hollow correct women. As far as I’m concerned, the slate is clean.” He paused. “I wasn’t planning to bring it up again. You might want to follow my lead and put the incident out of your mind.”
She bit her tongue. What seemed like a minor incident to him had been an exercise in humiliation to her. But a clean slate? She was reassured. If she feigned total obedience, for the time being, no one would suspect that she had anything to do with the broken radio.
Polly glanced out the window. The snow was falling harder. She didn’t want to think about it. And the kids were starting to file in, bundled up like little Inuit children against the cold. All seemed good-natured in spite of the storm and filed to their desks. Polly assumed they’d been assigned seating. As they settled in, Walt Springer stepped up to the front of the classroom.
“Listen up, boys and girls,” he said. “You all know you’re getting a new teacher.”
“Yeah! Because our Mrs. Springer ran away!”
Polly looked up to see who’d spoken. It was Willow Criner’s son, Peter. Out of the corner of her eye, Polly could see Walt Springer flinched a little as he sought the faces of his own two children, who looked as if they may start crying.
“Let’s allow Mr. Springer to finish speaking, please,” she said, deciding that there was no time like the present to assert her authority.
Walt Springer continued. “Ms. Perkins will be that new teacher. She comes from pretty far away and has promised to pick up where my–where Mrs. Springer left off. I expect all of you to be as cordial and attentive as you can be. I don’t want to hear of any misbehavior from anyone. Is that clear?”
The students nodded obediently.
“I built a snowman!” Peter yelled the comment and Walt Springer frowned.
“Young man, were you not just asked to be quiet?”