Dana pushed the little Kia as hard as she dared along the cobbled streets that wound through the stately older mansions and newer, sleek homes and named McMansions hidden off the avenue behind trees and high stone walls. She did take the time to slap the steering wheel with the heel of her hand in frustration. “Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!”
She was just stepping out of the shower when Bob Geldof sang “I Don’t Like Monday’s” from her phone. She hurriedly toweled her short blond hair when she saw the number. “Hi Taylor!” she answered.
“I was just calling dear, to see if you were on your way, or if you had forgotten completely about us.” Dana froze allowing the water to drip off her onto the floor. “No Taylor-I have you and your friends for tomorrow at 10…”
She heard Taylor say away from the receiver…”She has us down for tomorrow…”
Oh, Jesus, she thought. Was that today? She hadn’t forgotten-just got the day wrong. How was that possible!? Taylor Grayling was more than a private client, she had promised to be a true mentor and benefactor; someone who could open doors to a new class of clientele. On her worst days Dana saw herself as a twenty seven year old gym rat who refused to get a real job. On her best, she knew that the style of fitness training that she had developed could be Tae Bo for the next generation if she could get it moving beyond her little lakeside gym. This is what Taylor and her friends could do for her. If she wasn’t such a FUCK UP!
Dana pulled up to the gate hidden between two large oaks and pounded the code into the key pad. The gate opened achingly slowly. The parking area at the top of the circular drive looked like a Mercedes showroom, an SUV, a sports coupe, there was Taylor’s Porsche…Jesus half a million in cars in the driveway and she had forgotten the appointment!
The women could not have been nicer or more accommodating. She met Flora Cappalina, the owner of a trendy downtown boutique that was far out of Dana’s price range. Lynette Rampling was the wife of software entrepreneur who had sold his company to Google for an untold sum…and she didn’t know Mary Elizabeth Franc but assumed her to be worthy of the same respect as the rest of them.
“Don’t worry about it…mistakes will happen”, Taylor said kindly. “We had a chance to get a workout in.” Indeed, Dana was looking at thousands of dollars worth of ellipticals, treadmills, and stair steppers laid out before her. “But I’m afraid we’re about out of time though-to look at your program…”
Again, Dana apologized profusely and offered any day next week to come back and show everything they wanted to see. Obviously at no charge.
“I think we can set something up that will work for all of us”, Taylor purred.
“That’s wonderful!” Dana said, thinking she would cancel whatever needed to be cancelled next week to make this work.
“However….” said Taylor.
What? However. What a word! Three little syllables that turn a conversation from a well-traveled smooth thoroughfare where all landmarks are known and navigation simple. “However” cuts a path off the easy road and into rocky terrain where Dana feared to go. She was thinking about the equipment actually-taking a break from the embarrassment of screwing up this afternoon and thinking about how long it would take her to afford all this gear. She suddenly felt the room go silent and looked back to her would-be benefactor who was, apparently awaiting her response to something.
“I’m sorry, Taylor. I was distracted. You were saying?”
The older woman smiled with enough warmth to not be threatening, but not enough to be cuddly.
“I said, dear, that I think we can agree that you’ve earned your first spanking.”
“Uh…uh….” Dana was stuck for an answer. Taylor had mentioned spankings before but always in an off-hand light-hearted way. Like a joke! OK, she had mentioned it when they first agreed on the training schedule and regimen and what Taylor expected for the money she was paying. One thing was punctuality-she was a busy woman, after all. They both were-Dana had laughed it off and told her new, rich client not to worry. She would never be late. And she hadn’t been. Until today of course when Taylor had set up a workout with three of her closest and richest friends to show off her workout guru.
Flora was packing a towel into her bag and zipping up. “As much as I would love to stay for this, duty calls. I have to be off.” She smiled and held out a hand to Dana. “Hope to see you again-Taylor raves about your work. Not your punctuality, however…”
“Yes…” Dana said robotically bobbing her head. “Sorry, sorry…”
“Be firm Taylor”, she said over her shoulder, leaving the room. “Ta-Ta!”
The woman all followed Flora’s exit then turned their attention back to Dana who just stood there, her belly filling with freezing Jello, six eyes boring into her. Her mind raced back to every single mention of spanking that had come out of Taylor Grayling’s mouth in the last three months. Dana had read it as a joke-maybe a flirt. She’d flirted, and been flirted with, enough over the years but had never misread anything as clearly as she seemed to have misread this.
She was about ask-to say “you’re joking, right?” but realized that no one’s face said “Just kidding!” Their expressions were light, easy, anticipatory, committed…but definitely not joking. Something was going to happen here. And it was going to happen to her.
“There’s no way out of this, is there?” Dana asked bravely forcing a half-smile across her lips.
“Well of course there is!” Taylor said. “All you would have to do is say, no thank you. I’m not who you thought I was. Tell us you’re not a bright ambitious young woman willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead…just walk out and go back to your gym. It’s successful. You’re successful. You don’t need us. There are a ton of people who would love what you bring to the table. I do. We do. We just require a level of commitment evidently beyond what you’re able to bring. And our conditions are a little…unique.”
“You got that right”, she said, maintaining the same smile.
“It’s true. We are an…acquired taste, Dana. No problem. You can tell us that and just walk back out the door you just walked in. No harm, no foul. Right ladies?”
“Absolutely”, said Mary Elizabeth, wiping her hands on the towel that hung around her neck. Lynette was filling a cup of cucumber water from a pitcher on the bar. “Fine by me. As I said, Taylor-I already have a trainer…”
Taylor looked back and gave an exaggerated palms up shrug. “See? Simple as that-all you have to do is walk out the door.”
The give and take of even this slight conversation had calmed Dana a bit. She felt less like a tardy schoolgirl being sent to the office and more like a co-conspirator, even though she was the one being conspired against. She liked and trusted Taylor and was certain if she walked out, she wouldn’t be seeing her again.
“But here we are.” Said Taylor. She pointed at the small armless sofa beside the drink bar. “Here we have the spanking couch…and there we have the door.”
Dana looked at the couch as if she were reading it. “I’m not leaving”, she said.
To Be Continued…“However…” Part II