by Susan Thomas
As a recently married wife who had vowed to obey her husband, I had no choice. He had told me to go to his study and wait in the corner, so I did. I left the kitchen and walked to his study... oh yes, it was his study. I had a little room of my own. I went to the corner kept free for this very purpose and stood with my nose facing in. It was my first time and I was nervous but also curious. I had no idea what it would be like. Of course, I knew what would happen... I would be spanked. I also knew from other wives that it would almost certainly be on my bare bottom, because almost all corporal correction in the community was.
That shouldn't have been embarrassing because I was a wife. As a wife, of course, I had made love and been naked with him, but being naked is normal in marriage. Most women think nothing of it. Somehow baring my bottom for a spanking seemed worse... seemed embarrassing. Silly maybe, but that's how it felt as I stood there in the corner staring at the wall.
Being obedient was new for me. Not when I was a child of course. As a child, if my mum or dad said 'No' I obeyed. Not in my working life either. If you're told to do something when you are an employee you do it, don't you? It's what you get paid for. Being obedient in marriage though was another thing. This whole incident was my first test and I had failed in my obedience so I had to be corrected. For 'corrected' read punished... corporal punishment, spanked.
That too was new for me. When I was a child I had been smacked. Sometimes smacked several times but not spanked as such. Of course, I knew perfectly well that was the deal that came with this marriage. Obedience, respect and honesty were expected of a wife and in return the husband would love her (as himself), protect her, support her and guide her. If she failed in what was expected of her she would be corrected. Not beaten or injured, no, nothing truly awful. I would be able to walk out of the study under my own steam and still do everything... well, maybe sitting down would be a challenge, but that's all.
The bit I had no idea about was the spanking. Would he use his hand or an instrument? If an instrument, would it be hairbrush, strap or cane? How many? How long? How much would it hurt? What would he do if I fought my correction during the middle of it? What would happen afterwards? I just didn't know.
Other wives told me how liberating it was to be spanked. Why? They didn't seem to be able to explain. They told me I would feel cleansed, relaxed, happy. I wanted those feelings, I just didn't want the process, but you can't have the outcome without the spanking. As I stood there I realised that obedience is actually satisfying. I had obeyed him in coming here and it was a good feeling. My disobedience of last night had been a bad feeling. Why was I so stubborn and silly as to disobey? I had no idea.
Then I heard him come in. Now all my questions would be answered.
When you're thirty-five and have had to divorce your husband, you tend to be wary of men. Did I have to divorce him? Well yes, since he chased any female that caught his eye and spent money like it grew on trees. He ruined the both of us and I had to fight hard to get a deposit on a studio flat. So, there I was, financially much worse off than before I met him, my body clock ticking loudly, and now, wary of men. No, I didn't think all men were bad, I was just extra careful.
My parents, bless them, offered to have me live at home, but they were in their mid-sixties, had both wangled a retirement, and I reckoned they were entitled to a little bit of freedom at their age. I felt somewhat sour given I was head of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) at a large school with its own sixth form and yet was struggling financially and with a ruined marriage. OK I knew I was feeling sorry for myself and that wouldn't do. So, with the half term due at the end of October I decided to treat myself to a cheap holiday. The weather wasn't ideal for walking, but I decided to give it a go, found a B&B in the north that came highly recommended, was within my ability to pay, and set off.
As it happened the weather at half term was unusually mild and the B&B was set in the beautiful village of Ruckledown, so I cheered up. Mrs Smith welcomed me and I did little that first Saturday except sit in the pub reading until an old man came and started talking. He entertained me royally for several hours and all he asked was a few pints of beer. Cheap at the price. The next morning, after a magnificent breakfast, I decided to skip church (that would upset my parents) and just walk. I walked uphill and into some woods and after an hour or so found myself looking down into a peaceful valley. It seemed to be inhabited, which puzzled me. According to my map (one of Dad's old ones), this was Ministry of Defence land, but a bit further on I found a new sign: 'Frugal Valley Community Trust', so guessed it must have been sold on.
I decided to walk down into the valley, which turned out to be the most momentous decision of my life. There was a church and it was clear that an eleven o'clock service was about to start. Impulse and my parents' upbringing took me in. To my surprise it was packed and I got some extremely odd glances. It wasn't unwelcoming, but obvious that the congregation was surprised to see me. The service was most definitely not normal Church of England although it wasn't charismatic. The sermon was simple enough on the subject 'Who is my neighbour?'
Afterwards a quiet looking man of around forty came up to me. He was well dressed if casual and looked a little shy.
"Hello, I'm Paul. Welcome to our church. It's most unusual to see strangers here. Are you a journalist?"
I laughed. "No, whatever made you think that?"
"This whole valley is a private community and this is its church. Normally we only see members and members' guests here."
"Oh dear. I had no idea it was private. I am staying at Ruckledown and just walked here. I came in on impulse."
"It's no problem, just a surprise. Other villages around here leave us alone pretty much."
Just then I noticed a little girl of about three peeking at me from behind his legs. "Oh, hello," I said, "who are you?"
She shot back behind his legs and Paul laughed. "Milly, don't be a goose. Come and say 'hello' properly."
She stuck her head around his legs, said, "Hello," and ducked back again.
I laughed. "Don't worry. I am a teacher and I can tell you she's more communicative than some teenage boys I know."
Abruptly he asked, "Are you free for lunch? I have a big pot of rather nice beef stew and some lovely bread. We have Milly's favourite ice cream for dessert."
"I can't imagine your wife being pleased at an unexpected guest."
"I'm a two-year widower," he answered bleakly.
I was going to decline gracefully when Milly looked out from behind his legs and said, "I want to show you my room."
What could I do but accept? We walked back to his house together and I have to say it was a pretty village; it had clearly all been restored. I guessed the need to do that was something to do with having been in Ministry of Defence 'care'. Paul and Milly's house was a stone built one and quite large. I don't have a high opinion of men's tidiness but Paul looked after everything well and his home had a good warm feel to it. While Paul got the meal ready, Milly showed me her room. Paul had not spent a fortune but he had made such a lovely job of it. He had painted one wall like a Fairy castle and everything else fit in well. Milly showed me all her toys and special treasures until it was time to eat.
The meal was excellent but after, being a very good parent, Paul put Milly down for a nap. She protested but was sound asleep in a couple of minutes. It was then I said what was on my mind.
"What's the story with this community? A private, rather exclusive community like this has to have a reason. Is it a religious cult or something?"
"You're a shrewd lady. No, our church is not a cult. The trust was started by a group of women and men who wanted a different lifestyle. We value marriage highly, unlike our society in general. Husbands have a duty to love their wives as themselves and be extremely good family men. They have vowed to protect, support and guide their wives. In return wives are in submission to their husbands and have a duty to obey their husbands as long as the men keep their side of the bargain."
"Oh, that means women can't have careers I suppose."
"No, it doesn't mean that. We have a world-renowned ceramic artist, an up-and-coming young artist, both women, our utilities officer is a woman. My wife was a dentist like me but she cut down to one morning a week when Milly was born."
"Not really the sort of attitude one expects in 2017, is it?"
"Why not? Would you prefer all women become career-driven workaholics outsourcing their children to paid professionals?"
I couldn't tell him I did because that wasn't right either. I also worry that so many of the students at my school had no man in their lives at all. Divorce or single parenthood had taken all male role models out of their lives. Some of our mothers had serially monogamous relationships with men to the point where their children never knew who was going to be in Mum's bed tomorrow. Instead, I attacked.
"Submission and obedience. How can you demand that from a woman?"
"We don't. All the women here have chosen that. Our girls, on becoming adults, make their own choice. The artist I mentioned chose our lifestyle. Others don't. It's free choice. You can't have it both ways. If a woman is free she is free to choose a submissive lifestyle. Yes, it is demanding on a woman but so it is on the man. Any disobedience or other problem is dealt with, not with rows or anger, but proportionate and moderate corporal correction."
"You mean corporal punishment?"
"Yes, but we prefer the term correction."
"Huh! Unbelievable. So, my bloody husband, who chased every damn woman that took his fancy, and spent all my money as well as his own, would have the right to punish me?"
"Absolutely not! In this community he would have about ten seconds to reform or he'd be out on his ear. Remember that men have to love their wives as themselves. Your, I hope, ex-husband, loved only himself."
I knew I should be outraged and angry but somehow, I couldn't be. He was so mild and pleasant and clearly a very good parent. The people I'd seen in church looked happy and wholesome. None of the anger or tension I saw daily among our parents at the school was present.
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