It’s Christmas Eve and the house is quiet…
She woke a little after midnight and tiptoed downstairs. Everything was there ready: the two stockings hanging over the fireplace, the cookie on the plate and a glass of milk. Callum had suggested the milk.
“For the best, love. Don’t want him drunk before the night is out.”
She switched off the living room light and returned to the bedroom. Sliding under the covers, she was careful not to wake Callum.
At two o’clock, she stirred again and pinning her ears back, she listened. Nothing. Sighing, she turned onto her side and drifted in and out of sleep until four o’clock. The temptation to check was too much. She slipped out of bed and sneaked downstairs again.
The scene was unchanged. The empty stockings. The full glass. Had he forgotten to come? Unlikely. The truth was she’d screwed up and unless she rectified the situation soon, Santa wasn’t going to come to their house.
“Ana?” The sleepy voice called softly down the stairs. “What you doing?”
She hurried up to him. “Sh. Don’t wake the kids. We’ll never get them back to sleep.”
She closed the bedroom door behind her. “He’s not come. Santa’s not come.” She raked back her unruly hair, horrified at the implication that Santa might have skipped over their house.
Callum yawned. “Night’s not over, babe.” He lay back in bed.
How could he be so calm! He patted the bed next to him.
She didn’t like it one bit. The only reason Santa wouldn’t come if somebody in the house had been naughty. And, there had been some naughtiness recently.
“Cal,” she whispered, crawling up the bed toward him. “You know that I told you I posted that parcel to your granny on time.”
“Yes,” he said warily. “What about it?”
“I fibbed. It didn’t go until yesterday. I left it in the car.”
Callum rose up onto elbows. “You forgot? You lied to me!” He sat bolt upright.
Ana knelt back. She felt terrible that she’d kept it from him. At the time she’d been in such a rush, she’d forgotten all about it.
He was wide awake now. “What else? Go on, I can see where this is going.”
“I,” she bit on her lip, pausing to collect herself, “I forgot to put the bins out, so I emptied our trash into Mrs Donaldson’s.” She cringed. The poor dear had too heave the garbage can out on to the street ready for the collection.
Callum covered his face in his hands and groaned. “And you wonder why Santa isn’t coming. You know the kids think it’s about them, when it isn’t.”
“I know, I know. The big secret. Santa only comes to good parents.” She’d been a teenager when her parents sat her down and told her the truth. For years she’d thought it was her good deeds that brought them so many presents. Her parents had set high standards for her to follow.
“You know there is only one solution?” He reminded her.
“Take off your pyjamas and lay over my lap.” He folded his arms across his chest and gave her the look, the one she struggled to ignore, perhaps because she never wanted to. It was the best and the worse look: stern, expectant and unwavering, and also incredibly hypnotic. With the look came the voice. The one that counted down when she was too slow in moving and counted up when she was in position.
“Three,” he started.
She shuffled out of her pjs, shivering a little with the cold.
She darted across the bed and flung herself over his lap just as he said, “One.”
He drummed his fingers on her raised bottom. “I’m going to be quick. We’ve never done it in the middle of the night before. You should have confessed earlier when the kids were visiting your mother.”
“You don’t think we’re too late?” she said tearfully. Imagine the kids’ faces in the morning if Santa never came.
“Let’s hope. We’ve a few hours still.” He landed the first smack right across both cheeks.
“Sh,” he warned.
Callum was counting. He said the numbers softly and right after each slap. Ana wriggled and stuffed the corner of his pillow into her mouth, hoping to drown out her cries.
“It hurts,” she wailed as he batted her past twenty and onto thirty.
“So it should. You lied. You didn’t do as I asked. And poor Mrs Donaldson!” He punctuated each sentence with a flurry of smacks, tossing them about on her burning bottom, covering every inch and if that wasn’t enough, he aimed for the tops of her thighs too.
“I’m sorry. I’ll be good from now on. Please, that’s enough,” she pleaded.
“No, it isn’t. Not until I say so. You know how far I have to go to make this work.”
Callum exercised his sternness voice and his firm hand. It had to work. She prayed it would because her bottom was toast and her throat hurt from holding back the cries.
The kids must never know. They agreed it was for the best. Yes, tell them the truth about Santa one day, but never, ever that their mother got her ass spanked on Christmas Eve, not once, but three years on the trot.
He soothed her with a few circles of his palm, spreading the heat around until it no longer burnt except for a few hot spots he’d created with his persistent spanks. “Let’s hope that’s done you good.”
She snivelled. “You spanked me harder this year than ever.”
“I guess it was needed.” He swung her around and hugged her to his chest. “Let’s get some sleep. There’s nothing to do but wait until morning.”
Ana lay as close as she could to her husband and fought the temptation to peep out the window and see if there were any tracks in the snow or signs of his sledge. Just when she thought her throbbing bottom would keep her awake for the rest of the night, she fell asleep.
“Mom,” the squeaky voice rang in her ears. “Mom, wake up.”
Ana rolled over to find a small child nose to nose with her, his face flushed and hair stuck up on end. “Yes, darling?” She peered at the alarm clock.
Six o’clock. Oh, no! Too early, the kids were up too early. The last two years they’d made it past seven and that extra hour was so important.
“Come on,” he tugged on her arm.
Callum was already putting on his dressing gown. Ana quickly covered up her red bottom and followed the scampering child downstairs.
“Look!” A little finger jabbed at the fireplace.
Ana couldn’t bring herself to look and covered her eyes. Her heart was beating so hard and fast, it nearly drowned out the children’s excitement.
“It’s Santa, Mom. He’s filled our stockings and left extra presents on the hearth. Look, Mom.”
She peered through her fingers.
“Oh thank goodness.” She sighed.
Callum draped his arm over her shoulders. “Well done, darling. Your ass saved the day again.”