This excerpt is from the first part of the trilogy, when Sam Reilly is chosen as a guardian by the Delphian Sisterhood to protect them from a shadowy group known only as The Order.
Some artwork they did on commission, but they also attended trade fairs and farmers markets and it was on one of these excursions that they scared me to death. The market was in a small town, so while Elaine and Sinn manned the booth, Amelia and Jessica went shopping for some supplies. The rendezvous was at 3 pm at the market. I had tried to impress on everyone the need for security and that meant being where they were supposed to be and me knowing where they were at all times. The time came and went, however; and there was no sign of either one. Now I was worried. Knowing that they were being sought by “The Order”, whoever they were, I imagined all sorts of dire things. Elaine was worried too. “We never do this,” she said. “They know when the market closes.”
We decided to sweep the town from one end to the other. It was 5 pm now. I was just about frantic when I happened to pass the in-town cinema and Amelia and Jessica emerged from it, giggling. I couldn’t believe it. “Were you in there?” I was incredulous. Yes, they admitted. They’d not seen a cinema in years. “It was so amusing,” said Amelia, “witches—the very idea.” And they both giggled at each other like they were sharing some private joke. I looked up at the marquee. “The Witches of Eastwick.” I’d heard it was clever.
“Do you know we have all been frantic with worry looking for you? Do you have any idea?” I sounded and felt like an irate parent whose daughters had overstayed curfew. Elaine and Sinn were relieved to find us but then they were angry too. “You can’t just get lost for hours.” Duly scolded, the girls were properly repentant but I could not let this one go. I told them we could not have this, and if any of them thought that a note calling for a parlor paddy whacking was going to square this infraction, they were sorely mistaken.
“I’m here to protect you from whatever it is or whoever it is you’re afraid of. To do that I have to know where you are always. You knew what the meet time was. How did you think we’d feel when you weren’t there and you were nowhere to be found? But you won’t disappear on me ever again. I promise you that. I love you all too much to let it happen again.”
We were in the kitchen at their farm. I reached in a drawer and pulled out two knives. “Go out to the willow tree in back and cut three switches, each of you. I want them three feet long and a quarter of an inch at the thinnest end. And you’d be well advised to trim off all the buds and branches.”
Amelia and Jessica grimaced. They may not have ever experienced a switching, but they could see what was coming. Well, I had, and in my childhood there was no more painful a punishment than the few memorable switchings I got from my momma. Not even dad’s belt hurt as much. In rural Virginia where I grew up, they do things the old fashioned way, and Amelia and Jessica were about to learn all about it.
A couple of downcast ladies trudged back to the house with the required bundle of switches. I took them and said, “Let’s go into the parlor.” Once inside I took the sofa and pulled it to the middle of the room. I told both ladies to prepare and that meant removing everything except linen top and pantalets. While they did I tested the switches. They would do, I decided as I swooshed them through the air. The whine a switch makes is a chilling sound and I could see the girls wince.
“Here is how we are going to do this. I want both of you bending over the back of the sofa. You are each getting two dozen licks of groups of three at a time. It’s up to you to keep count. I’m lousy at math at times like this. You can have Sinn and Elaine hold your hands if you wish.”
They said yes, they did want Sinn and Elaine to hold onto them. I gave the order to bend over and they obeyed. Sinn and Elaine knelt on the front side of the sofa and took their hands. I loosened the drawers and lowered them baring two bottoms. It struck me as a very Victorian scene, a birching in the parlor. I took the first of the switches and moving to Jessica’s left tapped it against her so far very white and unblemished rear cheeks. A couple more taps and I let fly with three quick swipes landing with a whuick! whuick! whuick! Three red lines appeared and Jessica gasped in pain. Next I moved over to Amelia and repeated the rapid switching, delivering three searing licks to her prominent bottom that made her yelp and wriggle. Then I moved back to Jessica and repeated the lesson.
It didn’t take long for the ladies to be in genuine distress. There were sobs and wriggling in an attempt to alleviate the stinging of the switch which I knew was really awful. Red weals marred the otherwise creamy white skin of the girls’ buttocks. And probably taking the girls in turn with sets of three was not doing them either any favors. It gave time for the pain from a set of three swishes to rise to a crescendo before it was time for the next three. By the twentieth set (and the fourth switch) the tears were flowing and I heard sincere promises from both never to wander off again.
It was Elaine who asked for mercy. I was about to switch Jessica for the twenty-first time. She surprised me by asking if she and Sinn could take the last four sets of strokes for Amelia and Jessica. She said they needed to know how it would feel if they disobeyed an order of mine that was necessary for their safety. I thought about that as I paused, switch in hand, ready to stripe Jessica’s pert bottom again. It made sense to me and besides it looked like Amelia and Jessica had been punished enough.
So I let them up and places were exchanged. Elaine and Sinn took their places at the back of the couch and lifted their skirts and lowered their drawers. A tearful, but no doubt grateful, Jessica and Amelia gripped their hands. I treated Elaine and Sinn exactly the same. Three rapid swipes of the switch for Sinn and them a move over to Elaine for three firmly applied stripes. Bottoms wiggled and the ladies gasped at the sudden sting applied to their backsides. I paused a moment then repeated the sequence three more times, striping each pair of buttocks with three vivid red lines.
“Oh, my,” said Elaine as she rose rubbing her wealed rear cheeks, a look of astonishment on her face. “That was most salutary. If that is what we can look forward to I’m sure we’ll all obey your instructions in the future.” The rest of them nodded. Everybody rubbed flaming rear cheeks.
“Good. I hope we all understand now. I am going to do what it takes to keep you ladies safe from whatever it is that seeks you out but you really have to pay attention to what I deem necessary for your security.”
After that everyone adhered to any safety measure I put in place, but you know, in the end, it wasn’t enough.