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“Hey, there, sweetheart.”

 

You looked up from the History notes you were glancing over, sitting on the hood of the Trans Am. You had been waiting on the boys to show up, and here they were.

 

You looked at Patrick, who had just spoken. You found a smile meant for dangerous things, and your stomach clenched.

 

“Hey, babe.”

 

“You know, boys, someone’s been lying to us.”

 

You blanched.

 

“Patrick, I —”

 

“Uh uh. Nope. Shut up.”

 

He put a finger over your mouth, and you tried to be playful, lick his hand and try and make him smile. He only scowled at you and put his hand more forcefully over your mouth.

 

You sighed.

 

“You wanna tell the truth, now, or are we gonna hafta force you?” asked Henry.

 

He had his arms crossed over his chest, and you knew, you just knew — whatever you said wouldn’t be enough for him. For any of them.

 

Patrick took his hand away from your mouth.

 

“Henry, I swear, I didn’t mean anything by it, I —”

 

“Then what did you mean, sweetheart?” asked Belch.

 

He didn’t look angry. He just looked disappointed, and that was worse than Henry and Patrick’s anger put together.

 

“I just — listen, I had to go to the doctor, that was real. But after, I just went home. I — I needed some time to myself.”

 

“You needed some time to fuck someone else, more like,” said Patrick. “We aren’t enough for you anymore, sweetheart?”

 

“Patrick, it was just me alone with my mom, I wasn’t fucking anyone else,” you said.

 

You tried not to get angry, but the suggestion that your boys weren’t enough was so ridiculous that you felt your face heating up.

 

“I believe you,” said Vic.

 

“Thanks,” you said, your voice small. You couldn’t take your eyes off Patrick’s terrible smile.

 

“What I don’t get,” he continued, “is why you couldn’t just tell us you were at home. We thought something was seriously wrong, with you at the doctor all day.”

 

Finally, you looked away from Patrick and turned to Vic. He did look worried, but also a little mad. You looked down at your hands.

 

“I don’t know,” you admitted.

 

It had seemed so simple and harmless when you’d done it. When you just decided that you were going home to fuck around, be alone for once. It wasn’t that you loved the boys any less now than you ever had, it was that you were constantly with them. You sometimes felt like you were only real when you were with them, and that just wasn’t okay.

 

“I just wanted to be alone,” you said. “I never get to be alone anymore.”

 

The boys said nothing, only stared at you. You could imagine that they didn’t understand. But no one was forcing them to constantly be together. When one of them wanted time to themselves, they got it. It wasn’t the same for you. You had to be with them — on their arms or laps or underneath them — all the time.

 

It was fun until you stopped knowing yourself in the brief moments of solitude. You’d looked at yourself in the mirror the morning of your doctor’s appointment and seen a person you hardly recognized. You knew that you needed to get yourself back.

 

“Come on,” Belch sighed. “We’re going home.”

 

You all got into the car, you sandwiched between Patrick and Vic in the back seat. Vic threw one arm around you, heavy and possessive. Patrick ignored you.

 

That felt worse than it should have. Sometimes, you were just silently begging for space from him. Right now, you wanted to climb in his lap and beg forgiveness, if only to get what served as a genuine smile from him. But you knew you couldn’t. You wouldn’t, at least.

 

Home today was Belch’s house, his mother at work for a couple more hours.

 

You all got out, trailing one after another to the door, letting yourselves in. When you were all inside, Patrick turned to you.

 

“Take your clothes off,” he said.

 

“Patrick —”

 

“No. Take. Your clothes. Off. Now.”

 

You shrugged out of the flannel you’d stolen from Belch ages ago, then pulled your shirt over your head. You stepped out of your pants and stood there in front of your boyfriends in your underwear, shivering a little in the air conditioning.

 

“Everything,” said Henry, chewing on one of his fingernails like he didn’t care about what was happening. But you knew that habit, and you could tell he was keyed up.

 

You pulled off your underclothes, dropping them next to your feet.

 

Belch held out one hand for you to take, and you lightly placed your hand in his.

 

“Come on,” he said.

 

He led you down the hall to his bedroom, then sat on the side of his bed. He let you stand in front of him, his eyes taking you in, in that gentle way they had. Hungry, too. Always hungry.

 

“Now,” said Patrick. “I think our baby deserves a spanking, don’t you think?”

 

You looked at him, eyes wide. Usually you only got a spanking if he was having a bad day, and it was just the two of you.

 

You hoped it wouldn’t be like that. That was to say, you hoped he wouldn’t use his belt.

 

He must have seen your eyes go to his belt buckle, because he laughed.

 

“No, baby. Not today. Not unless you think you deserve it.” Then, he paused. “What do you deserve, baby?”

 

You bit your lip before you answered.

 

“Just — just hands, I think,” you said, careful.

 

He hummed.

 

Then he turned to Belch.

 

“You should start,” he said, clapping Belch on the shoulder.

 

Belch looked at you, then said, “get over my knee, baby.”

 

You did, ending up with your face on his unmade bed. You could smell him all over the sheets, and it was one tiny bit of comfort in a situation you had so little control over.

 

He smoothed one hand over your ass, holding you in place with an iron grip on your hip with his other hand.

 

Then, he slapped your ass. It was hard, so much force behind one blow that it took your breath away. You let out a strangled gasp, looking over your shoulder at him. He still looked disappointed in you.

 

He continued spanking you, one hit after another until he seemed satisfied.

 

Then, he said, “if you need time alone, you ask for it. You don’t run off and not tell us what you’re doing. You just needed to ask.”

 

You swallowed, your ass already sore.

 

“Okay,” you said. “I’ll ask.”

 

“Good, baby.” He looked at Vic. “You’re next.”

 

You looked at Vic, silently begging him to go easy on you. But his face said that was a no-go.

 

Belch stood, helping you to your feet. Vic took his place on the bed, and he guided you over his lap. In this position, your feet weren’t on the floor like they had been before, and you felt what little control you had leave you.

 

Vic handed it back to you, though.

 

“How many do you think you deserve, baby?” he asked.

 

You thought about it. You hadn’t been counting with Belch, but you think he’d given you something like twenty.

 

“Ten?”

 

“How about fifteen? I was real worried about you, sweetheart. It’s a punishment, after all.”

 

You nodded, rubbing your face with one hand.

 

“Okay,” you said.

 

He started in on you, and it wasn’t as bad as it had been with Belch. For one thing, Vic’s hands weren’t as big as Belch’s, but he also wasn’t as strong. In a fight, he was unstoppable out of sheer willpower, but here? He was okay.

 

You found yourself breathing in time to the strikes, in as you waited for his hand to meet your ass, out as soon as the pain arrived.

 

He was over quick, and without a word, he passed you off to Patrick.

 

Patrick had you sit with one leg on either side of his leg, and he pushed you down until your chest was on the bed. You laid like that, with a hand over your eyes, your toes just barely touching the floor when you reached for it.

 

Patrick was brutal. His hand came down and came down hard and fast. He didn’t ask how many you thought you deserved, he doled out exactly how much he thought you needed.

 

And he talked the whole time, telling you how much you deserved this, how bad you were for doing what you’d done. You were in tears by the time he was done — something like thirty strikes — and you were begging him to stop.

 

You knew he didn’t stop on account of you, though. You felt it in his posture, how he was satisfied enough to let you go. He made you stand on your own, on legs that shook so violently it was amazing that you were upright at all. He left to stand in the corner of the room, ushering Henry over.

 

Henry sat down, knees wide, and took you by the hand. He guided you down onto his lap, in the same position as Vic had you.

 

“I think you’ve just about had enough, isn’t that right, sweetheart?” he asked.

 

You had to hold back a sound that was something between a laugh and a sob. You nodded instead.

 

“I’ll just give you ten, then,” he said. “Long as you say thank you.”

 

“Thank you, Henry,” you said.

 

“Say it again.”

 

“Thank you for taking it easy on me.”

 

“That’s it, baby.”

 

His hand came down on your ass, hard.

 

“Count,” he said.

 

“One,” you whispered.

 

“Louder,” he said, his hand coming down again.

 

“Two,” you said, just a little bit louder.

 

“I can’t hear you, baby,” he said. He slapped your ass again.

 

Three,” you yelled.

 

“That’s good,” he said.

 

Smack.

 

“Four.”

 

Smack-smack.

 

“Five — six.”

 

Smack.

 

“Seven.”

 

He paused, trailing one finger over your hole.

 

“You getting turned on, baby?”

 

You swallowed, hard.

 

“Yeah,” you said.

 

“Mm. Good.”

 

Smack.

 

“Eight?” You couldn’t remember if that was right or not.

 

“You got it.”

 

Smack.

 

“Nine.”

 

Smack.

 

“Ten,” you sighed.

 

“That’s it, baby. God, look at your ass. So red.”

 

He was laughing at you, and you squirmed under his hand.

 

“You want something, baby?” asked Belch.

 

“I just — fuck, I want someone to fuck me. But like, not right now. I need a minute.”

 

“Better be a short minute,” said Patrick.

 

Henry picked you up and dropped you on your stomach in the middle of the bed. Vic crawled over to lay down beside you, running his fingertips over the flushed portion of your ass and thighs.

 

“So, what’d we learn, huh?” he asked.

 

“If I wanna be alone, I need to ask. I need to tell the truth.”

 

“Why?”

 

You thought about it, for only a second.

 

“’Cause this thing doesn’t work if we lie to each other.”

 

“Good,” he said, then he kissed you, short and sweet.

 

“Your minute’s almost up,” said Patrick.

 

“Okay,” you said.

 

You took a deep breath. It was okay.