The precise, frenetic strains of Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee raced down the xylophone and echoed down the halls of Central High School's performing arts wing. The halls were dark, only one bit in the middle was illuminated, the light coming from the skinny, vertical window of a practice room.
A beacon of illumination in the dark.
Suddenly the melody stumbled—a wrong note—the player cursed loudly, restarted, stumbled again. She tried twice more and stumbled each time. The practice room door could not muffle her screech of rage.
Dr. Hughes opened the door and strode in to the small practice room, startling Robyn, the frustrated player of Korsakov's famous piece. Robyn was a skinny slip of a girl, only a sophomore but with vast talent. Her jade green eyes were red-rimmed from tears of frustration; her white-blonde hair was damp from the sweat of anxiety. She jumped and gasped as Central High's music instructor entered without preamble.
He fixed her with a stern expression and she swallowed hard. She explained without having to be asked.
"Two days." Robyn whispered. "Solo and Ensemble is in two days and I can't get this."
"You've done it before. I've heard you."
Robyn shrugged. "I don't know what's wrong with me."
"I do. You're thinking too hard. You need something to distract you. Come here."
Robyn dropped her xylophone mallets and approached Dr. Hughes. The music director was a short man with a florid complexion and auburn hair. He was stern and strict, but the music students at Central High afforded him nothing but respect.
When she was within arm's reach, Dr. Hughes grabbed her arm at the elbow and firmly led her to the hard-backed, plastic chair, the only chair in the room.
"Ouch. Hey." But Robyn's objection went unheeded.
Though he was short, only barely taller than Robyn herself, he was implacable. He sat in the chair and pulled Robyn to his side.
The command hung in the air, raising the pressure in the small room.
Robyn felt her chest tighten, her limbs go numb, her vision go fuzzy. She knew what Dr. Hughes meant her to do; she was to bend over his lap like she'd bent over her own daddy's lap when she'd been a little girl, and then he was going to spank her. But she didn't want a spanking. Spankings hurt, and she was already tired and frustrated and crying, and she didn't see how a spanking was going to help matters much.
But Dr. Hughes had given her an order.
Robyn bent over his lap, bracing herself with her palms and toetips.
Dr. Hughes wasted no time. One hand rested on her back to steady her and the other slapped down on her bottom. The crack of palm on denim lay heavy in the room. Robyn gasped involuntarily, the sting rippling from bottom to hip to lower back. Then the other side, a sharp, hard smack to her bottom, and she choked back a sob. The sting, she knew, was muted by her jeans, but she wished that her jeans weren't so tight and might therefore offer a bit more protection. By the sixth, three on each cheek, the sting had become a steady, slow burning fire and Robyn had had enough, but Dr. Hughes was nothing if not thorough and though Robyn began to stand, he pressed down on her back, holding her in place, and continued.
"No, wait, that's enough!"
Dr. Hughes didn't reply except to spank her again and again and again.
He kept spanking until Robyn's face was drenched in tears and sweat, her throat sore with sobs, her body limp with exhaustion. She stopped thinking. She stopped thinking about the spanking, about the frustration, about the music. The zipping, frantic, bobbing bumblebee stopped buzzing about her brain. And though she sobbed, she grew limp with relief.
When he was done and let her stand, with tears still streaming down her cheeks, he made her stand at the xylophone, put the mallets in her hands and ordered her to play.
The bumblebee flew without stumble.
In the ready room, just down the hall from where she'd be performing in only a few minutes, Robyn took a deep breath, but nerves shook her hands. She wiped her hands on the skirts of her formal black dress.
"I don't know if I can do this," she whispered.
"Of course you can."
Robyn yelped and spun. Dr. Hughes, dressed in a sharp black suit and bright red tie, smiled gently. Solo and Ensemble was a state-wide competition and the height of the year for most of his students. He always dressed up when his students were performing.
"I'm not so sure." Robyn held up her shaking hand for proof. She swallowed hard. "I can't... I'm just..."
He raised an eyebrow at her. "Do you want my help?"
Robyn took in a shaky breath. She knew what she was asking for, she knew it would hurt, but it had worked so well two days ago in the practice room. The sting in her tail had soothed her mind. It had allowed her to stop thinking about playing the piece and just play it. It had made her playing effortless. She wondered if her skirt would provide more or less protection than her tight jeans had. She wondered if Dr. Hughes would simply lift her skirt and make the point moot.
Robyn looked up at the music director. She loved him as she loved her father. She knew he would help her like none other could. With a sudden resolve, Robyn sent her mallets on her xylophone and smoothed her skirt over her bottom with both hands.