"Are you sure you're going to be okay today, honey?" My mother places her left hand on my shoulder and her right on the doorknob as she searches my face for any sign that I'm in emotional distress and need her to stay home from work. Of course, she isn't going to find it. Even though I'm practically shitting bricks about what's going to go down in a few hours with Daniel, I'll never show it to her, or anyone else for that matter.
Instead of cueing her in on how fucked up my life has become, I just nod and smile. "Of course, mom. You have a long shift at the hospital. Don't you worry about me, I'll be fine."
She lingers, doing one final inventory check to make sure there are no signs of an incoming breakdown then sighs and nods, finding nothing of concern. It's a relief, my mother is like a bloodhound, once she has the scent of something off, she never lets go of the chase until she's down to the bottom of it. It's both endearing and annoying.
"Okay, well there's plenty of food in the fridge and you have my number if you need me." She hesitates at the door.
"Are you trying to reassure me, or yourself, mom?" I crack a joke and she smiles reluctantly. "Seriously, I'll be fine."
I wish I believed that. I won't be fine. Today is the day I have to talk to Daniel, and I'm completely, utterly, screwed.
My mother nods and gives me a quick squeeze before finally opening the door. "Alright, I love you baby."
I squeeze her back. "I love you too mom, now come on, you'll be late for work."
She nods once more and takes another lingering glance at me before she slips out the door and heads down the street towards the hospital, leaving me alone in the house as my father left earlier for work and Max headed off to school. Of course, it was the same routine with them, only theirs involved more threatening of my husband. I had to shut that down because I don't want either of them to go to prison. If anyone else heard the colorful language that came out of their mouths, my mother included, they'd be rotting in the Verilian dungeon for sure.
Even though Max is my little brother, he's taller, and has been for years, so he always treats me like I'm the younger sibling. He's always looked out for me. He's my protective little big brother. When he heard about Daniel, I had to physically block him from leaving the house because he was so hell bent on "making sure that bastard can never be a father". His words, not mine.
I walk back into the kitchen and Baxter yips at my heels so I bend down and scoop him up in my arms. Even though he reminds me of Daniel, I'll never stop loving the little guy. He's a bit heavier and I make a mental note to stop spoiling him as much because he's clearly gaining weight. Up until recently, he's been a fat, spoiled, royally pampered pooch. I can only imagine what it's like for him. Now he's stuck eating cheap pet kibble when he's used to steak and salmon.
"Poor baby. Sorry, I don't have any sirloin for you." I coo and he yips happily and licks my cheek, telling me that he doesn't seem to care either way. I wipe it with the back of my palm and make a face. "Ugh, gross Baxie!" I giggle when he does it again, completely disregarding my feelings on the matter.
My phone buzzes again from the island and I freeze. The last time it did that, it was Daniel so I'm reluctant to pick it up. I approach it like it's a wounded wild animal and then audibly sigh in relief when I see it's just Aline.
My heart's racing and I take a breath to calm it down before picking it up and answering. Before I can get a simple hello in, she's off.
"Oh my GOD! Annie! He is here! Did you see?! Of course you saw, how could you not?! The-The royal man- Oh I can't even think of his title that's how shocked I am-The Prince! He is there, in The New York with you!"
I sigh. "I know, Aline. He showed up yesterday right after you. And hey, shouldn't you be on a plane back home right about now?"
"I took a connector flight. I'm currently in the Paris airport. Next flight is in two hours, but enough about me! What is the plan for your husband?"
"I have no idea, Aline. We're supposed to meet for lunch today, but I don't want to go. I wish you were here, Al." I lean against the island and run my hand through my hair.
"It is all ok, Annie. Fuck this man! He does not deserve a small inch of your time! Do what you Americans call ditching, blow him up!" She practically yells into the phone.
I can't help but smile. "Blow him off, Aline. You mean blow him off, not up."
I can practically picture her rolling her intense eyes and brushing her hand from side to side dismissively. "Oh, whatever. You know what I meant. I am serious. Don't see him. Give him a taste of his own medication, blow him off. Don't make him a priority like he did not make you one."
I stand up straight and scratch Baxter behind his ear. "You know what, you're right, Allie! I'm not going to go. If he wants to see me, then he's going to have to come here."
Aline laughs triumphantly. "Woohooo! Go Annie! That's my girl!"
I laugh back and I feel better. Aline is right. If Daniel is going to push me around, then I'm not going to make it easy for him. I'm going to fight back. He wants me to come over for lunch and walk willingly to the slaughter?
I glance over at the time on the stove. It's nearly eleven. Well, I'm in no rush to be anywhere, and I can't leave or else I'll be attacked by the paparazzi outside my house, so I decide to sit down on the couch and catch up on some of the shows I used to watch. I let Baxter down and take a seat on the couch, pulling a blanket over my legs. Baxter immediately jumps back up with his tiny little legs, clearly not wanting to be apart from me, and does a little spin before he settles on my lap with his head in his paws.
I can't help but marvel at how utterly adorable he is as I stroke the soft fur on his back. He's snoring happily before I even turn on my show on the television. It's still stuck on what my parents were watching before so the news springs to life when I hit the power button on the remote. I'm about to change the channel when I decide to watch it for a few minutes instead. I have been a shut in for the past few days, it wouldn't be a bad idea to find out what's going on in the world.
"In other news, Jeannette Winslow is here for all your celebrity gossip! Jeannette, what do you got?" The too-perfect news anchorman smiles at the slender brunette woman beside him.
She smiles back and shows off teeth so white that I swear I've only seen them on billboards for dental offices. "Oh, Chip... Boy do I have some news! I'm sure you-like most of the world-have been following the Verilian royal family, especially now that there seems to be trouble between Prince Daniel and Princess Annie." She smiles at the camera and a picture of the two of us at our wedding shows up on the screen. It was taken right as we were on the balcony waving to the crowd and we're holding hands. We both look happy, it's such a joke.
While I'm lamenting on what could've been she continues. "And of course, earlier this week, on the same day as the double assaults mind you, Princess Annie left the palace under the shroud of night to return home and hasn't been back since. Sources say the two are going through a tough time. Just yesterday, Prince Daniel also left and followed his wayward wife home, but pictures from outside her New York home don't paint a pretty picture as right before, Lord William Morburn entered her home and only left when the Prince showed up. Our camera man outside claimed that the two exchanged words and Lord Morburn left looking far from pleased, so we have to ask ourselves, is there a royal affair afoot?"
I can't help but snort out loud. A royal affair? What kind of a person do they think I am? I'm about to turn off the TV in a rage when she keeps going.
"They pay me here for my opinion and I have to say, I don't believe that to be true based on past evidence. Princess Annie was just a simple maid when she married The Prince in a whirlwind, the Prince who has been well known for being nothing more than a player and a rascal. If I had to guess what happened? I'd say there was a royal screw up and the new Princess fled, not wanting to deal with it. I don't think she's the cheater in this situation if you catch my drift." She elbow Chip who laughs and grins.
"But that's the past, as of today there's been a new development."
Now, I'm on the edge of my seat.
"The Palace released an official statement regarding the hopefully-future-Queen. It states:
Her Royal Highness Princess Annalise Windsor I is off on brief holiday in the states, visiting her friends and family. Palace life has taken a toll on her and she simply needed a break. The Prince had to stay behind for business but has since joined her. The two royals will be back in the palace and back to their duties by the end of the week
Can I just say something real quick? It's Friday."
With that, I don't want to hear any more and I switch channels to some infomercial for Tupperware. I'm disgusted. The end of the week? There's no way in hell I will be back there by Sunday. No way. I won't let it happen.
My quick movements startle Baxter. "It's okay baby." I reassure him and he makes a contented sound and falls back asleep. I start at the blue plastic container they're trying to sell for five minutes before turning on my show.
After my episode is over, I look back at the clock and see it's half past noon. My stomach growls, waking up the dog on my lap once more. "Sorry, but I have to get up anyway." I apologize sheepishly and start to move. He jumps right off my lap and his nails make a small tick sound as he lands. "I'm sure you're hungry too."
He yips in affirmation. Most dogs are always hungry and Baxie is no different. I swear this little thing could eat until he physically explodes.
I walk into the kitchen and prepare to make something simple like a sandwich or a salad. I haven't eaten a delicious salad in a while so I decide I'm craving Caesar dressing. I instruct the voice activated speaker to play a local radio station and start singing to an 80s tune while I open the fridge and rummage around inside it. I move condiments and a gallon of milk until I finally find what I'm looking for--the glass bottle of Caesar dressing. I bend down a bit and go into the drawer and take out the lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots. I juggle all of them in my hands and close the door.
What I see causes me to drop everything on the floor. The bottle of salad dressing shatters and it's contents go everywhere.
"D-Daniel? W-what are you doing here?" I demand, standing there staring at him with what I can only assume is a very stupid, surprised look on my face. Not to mention I look horrible. My hair is up in two frizzy pigtails and I'm wearing light blue fuzzy pajama pants with cartoon sheep and a black tank top without a bra. As I stand in front of him, I can feel my nipples getting hard and I curse myself for not wearing a bra and him for conditioning my body to react to him this way.
I'm about to go into a tirade about him entering my home without permission when I snap my mouth shut. He's standing in front of me, and he looks beyond irate. His dark brows are furrowed and his mouth is pressed into a firm line. There's that look in his dark eyes that I'm all to familiar with- it's the look he gets when I'm about to be punished. I audibly swallow the last of the saliva in my mouth, it now becoming dryer than the Sahara Desert.
"D-Daniel?" I squeak, completely losing my bravado.
His nostrils flare. "You didn't show up. You blew me off. It's nearly one and you were supposed to show up at twelve. I sent a car and the driver said you didn't even come out of the house."
With every word that comes out of his mouth, I gain more confidence. Who does he think he is? Does he assume I'm just going to willingly get into that car? No way in hell. I cross my arms, the ones that were hanging limply at my sides in shock, over my chest. "Excuse me? I changed my mind."
His eyes narrow. "No, you disobeyed me. I told you to be there and you deliberately disobeyed me."
"I'm not your wife anymore and I'm not a dog so you can't command me like one. I decided I didn't want to go, I decided I didn't want to see you." I spit back and crouch down to pick up the loose veggies that are now drenched in dressing. Well, they were gonna get that way anyways, I suppose. I stand up and head to the sink so I can wash them off. I hear him follow me and once I make it there and deposit the veggies into the strainer in the sink he bends me over it, pushing his hand down in the center of my back. I try to rise but he applies more force, effectively keeping me pinned down. "Daniel, this isn't funny. Let me up."
I gasp when I feel his hand come down on my ass. "I'll let you up when I've gotten through to you, and this is the only way I know how. We have a lot to discuss and if you followed my orders like a good girl we'd be having this conversation over an expensive meal instead of you bent over the counter getting your ass smacked." He leans down and pushes a piece of hair away from my ear and plays with it with his finger. "Lucky for you, I prefer it this way."
"Daniel, I'm serious. Let me up." My voice sounds more pleading and whiny than I'd like.
His response is another swift smack to my ass that makes me yelp a little, even over the thick pajama pants. "You are in no position to make demands, so I suggest you stay quiet and let me speak."
"Daniel--ow!" I'm cut off by an especially sharp whack.
"For your sake you better hope I don't have to remind you of the rules as well, because this will be rough enough without having me add on to it. We have a lot to cover here, Little American." He scolds, emphasizing every word with a flurry of spanks onto my defenseless behind.
"Ow! Ow! Ow! Okay! Okay! Sir! Stop! I know the rules!" With every spank I'm squirming and trying to escape his grasp but not only is he too strong, but he has leverage. Neither of these factors bode well for me.
He stops and rubs my heated bottom in reward. "Good girl. Now, shall we begin?"
"You said you're the one in charge here, not me, remember?" I say sarcastically and my sass is met with more spanks. Not sure why I thought I'd get anything different.
"What was that?"
"Ow! Nothing, sir!" I yelp.
"Good. I think we'll begin with your recent offenses and go backwards, does that sound fair to you, Little American?" When I don't answer Daniel just continues. "Good. So we will begin with your punishment for you saying you are no longer my wife. I assure you, wifey, you are very much married to me." He leans down. "And spoiler alert, divorce isn't an option anymore."
With that, I try to get up in outrage. "What?!"
Before he answers, Daniel just gets right into the spanking. Alternating cheeks until I swear he can feel the heat through my fuzzy blue pants and I'm crying out and yelping at every swat. Even through the clothing, it's painful. Daniel clearly knows what he's doing. "You heard me. We will not be getting a divorce. We will remain married until at least the baby is born and then some after that because, and for the life of me I don't know why, I have yet to become bored of you. The idea of you with anyone else- Especially William-makes me want to do something that will definitely find me looking at you through prison bars."
I don't know how to feel about his little outburst, mainly because my ass is really starting to smart. I do know one thing, it makes me angry because everything he's describing is love and jealousy, yet he refuses to admit it. "No! I won't stay married to you. We have that contract sure, but I'm done. It doesn't matter. I'm finished with you, Daniel."
"Sir." I amend.
"Shall we move on to the next offense, wifey?" He brings his hand down on my ass again and I hiss, hit spanks are increasing in force and his large palm lands solidly on my flesh like a paddle every time. He once again answers his own rhetorical question. "Okay then, ditching me for lunch and deliberately disobeying me. I waited ten minutes, thinking you could possibly be late. Of course, I'd spank you for that too, but that's irrelevant. But you didn't show."
Daniel doesn't give me any time for an answer because he just gets right to spanking me. His palm lands time and time again, leaving me squealing and gasping and pleading for mercy.
"Ow! Ow, Sir! Please, stop!" He doesn't answer, and to my horror, hooks his finger under the waistband of not only my pants, but my panties too. "No, no, no, no, no way! I've had enough! Let me up now! You are not doing this!" I renew my struggles to stand up but they're once again all for naught. He's too strong.
Daniel clucks his tongue. "Tsk, tsk, doesn't this look familiar? I believe you said the same thing to me the first time I turned this little behind of yours pink. It's a shame for you that this time it will be far past pink." He lands a solid smack on my right cheek and the sound of skin hitting bare skin echoes in the kitchen. "And I decide when you've had enough. Your bottom is barely flushed. It seems I have quite a ways to go."
And he does. Daniel goes at it, alternating his blows until I'm nearly in tears. I cry out every time one of them lands and I kick out my legs until I simply don't have any fight left in my anymore and I rest my body limp against the upper sink. A part of me debates reaching in and hitting him with a frying pan, but deep down, I don't really want to hurt him. I love him. It's pathetic but even as he's whaling on my ass, I love him. It's the reason why I'd never expose him with the contract. Aline suggested it, but I could never do it. I could never hurt him that way.
He pauses his assault and rubs his palm along my heated globes. "Good girl. You're being a very good girl, Little American. We're almost done. Just one more offense to deal with."
I rest my head on the back of my hands and revel in his touch like a pathetic animal who returns to her master for even the smallest sliver of attention. It truly is pathetic. My head perks up when I hear him rummaging around in the cup on the counter that holds all of the cooking utensils. I'm about to ask him what he's looking for when the noise stops and I shake it off, thinking it's nothing.
Big mistake. I hear the loud crack well before I feel the fiery heat in my right cheek. "Ah! Shit! What the hell was that?" I demand and it only leads me to another blow of the mystery implement.
"Language, and it's a wooden spoon. A good implement for convenience as it's in nearly every household and it packs a mighty sting and leaves beautiful marks. You're getting this spanking for running away. For this to work you never run away. We talk things out. We're a team. You scared the shit out of me when I found out you left. I was so worried, Little American." If I'm not mistaken, his voice cracks like experiencing real pain and sorrow, but that can't be right.
For some reason, I feel guilty for making him worry, even though he's the reason I left in the first place. And we did talk, we came to an impasse so I left, but hearing the honesty and pain in his voice makes me feel small and any angry retort I have dies on my tongue as the wooden spoon descends on my left cheek, leaving a painful stingy burn in its wake.
He continues in a steady rhythm. Left, right, left, right. My ass is on fire and I plead for him to stop. I say so many things that I can't recall all of them. I keep thinking about Daniel, alone in the suite, reading my note, worried out of his mind, and I break down. The tears I was holding back fall and stream down my cheeks before landing in the sink beside the frying pan I thought of hitting him with earlier. He continues to spank me and I openly cry from both a mix of physical and emotional pain. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Sir. I'm sorry, Daniel, I won't do it again. I'm so sorry." I repeat it over and over. I hear him drop the spoon on the floor and it hits the tile with a solid clunk.
He wraps his arms around me and lifts me into his arms. I cry into his chest and Daniel strokes my hair and whispers words that I couldn't recall even if you put a gun to my head.
"I'm sorry, Daniel. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to scare you, I just needed to leave. You... You broke my heart." I cry.
"Shhh... It's okay, Little American, it's okay... everything is forgiven. Clean slate." He coos in my hair and kisses the top of my head.
I'm so overcome with emotion that I blurt out the words that tore us apart in the first place. "I love you," I whisper.
Instead of pushing me away, he pulls me closer and I snuggle into him. "I know."
I can't help but smile even though my ass hurts. He just Han Solo'd me.