Subject: Punishment of a Princess
Date: Sat, 10 Oct 1998 20:54:01 EDT
I was always something of a loner as a boy, even at my expensive private school. I was bright enough to be skipped a grade, which resulted in my being the youngest and weakest of the boys, rarely included in their groups at recess and after school. As a result of this, and my consesquent failure to assimilate the hostility toward the opposite sex that characterizes so many children around the age of ten and eleven, I inevitably drifted into the company of Cynthia Benedetto.
Cynthia's general exclusion from the existing cliques was something of a contrast to my own. I was shy, relatively quiet and less active than most of the other boys, preferring to spend my spare time curled up with a book or comic book. Cynthia, on the other hand, was far more physically active than the most of the other girls in our class, disdaining hopscotch and jump rope in favor of climbing trees and trying to play baseball and football with the boys, at which she was good enough to be accepted. Yet, even more than me, she was sometimes purposefully avoided by other children in the class, for reasons I only began to understand years after the fact.
As a result, we increasingly sought each other's company on the playground at recess. She was a clever girl, and I introduced her to my favorite books while she taught me to climb trees. Our family situations were also similar: we were both only children whose mothers had died several years before, and our fathers both worked long hours at businesses that, we were old enough to realize, had made them both wealthy but whose actual nature we had little knowledge of.
As a result, only servants were at home when we got to our respective houses. Cynthia's father, she'd mentioned, had several servants, but my own employed only a single housekeeper, who looked after me in the afternoons until my father arrived home, sometimes long after I was in bed.
I must have been in sixth grade the week our housekeeper took a week's vacation, leaving my father and me to fend for ourselves. In previous years, she had generally been granted a week coinciding with my school vacation, enabling me to spend that week with my maternal grandparents in Florida. But this year she'd asked for an earlier week so she could help with the preparations for the wedding of her daughter in Mexico, and it was arranged that I would go home with Cynthia every afternoon after school, remaining there until my father could pick me up.
The first few days were quite uneventful, though enjoyable. We climbed the trees on Mr. Benedetto's forested estate, swam in his private pool, and roller-skated the length of the driveway. Then, one day toward the end of the week, it was raining so hard that any outdoor play was impossible. We had gotten thoroughly damp even running from our school's private bus to the front door, and Cynthia looked around.
"You know, I don't think Dad's home this afternoon," she said. (Mr. Benedetto conducted a good deal of his business out of his home.) "Would you like to see his office?"
"Didn't you say nobody was allowed in it without his permission?" I asked her. "Not even the servants?"
"Well, yeah," Cynthia admitted. "But who's going to know? We'll just take a look and come right out. I noticed last week that the door doesn't lock half the time he closes it, especially when he's in a hurry. But if it is, maybe we can go up to the attic and try on old clothes."
I followed her to the thick wooden door of Mr. Benedetto's office, half hoping it would indeed be locked, even if the alternative was being forced into Cynthia's uncle's Italian Army uniform again. But the door swung open a crack, and Cynthia boldly stepped inside, beckoning me to follow.
It didn't look that spectacular to my ten-year-old eyes, but I couldn't help but be thrilled at the stuffed tiger's head on the wall, or the full-sized statues here and there, or the expensive-looking rugs on the slippery floor. I openly stared for a couple of minutes, and even Cynthia, who admitted she'd been in it before (though only a few times) looked impressed.
"OK, Cynthia," I said at last. "We've seen the study. Now we'd better get out before we get in trouble." But Cynthia was looking at the floor, with a gleam in her eye.
"You know, Lou," she said. "I'll bet that floor would be great for roller-skating on! You just wait here. I'll get our skates."
I must have gasped. "But won't it scratch the floor? Besides, I don't even have my skates today, since I knew it'd rain!"
Cynthia glared at me. "It's solid marble, stupid! Marble doesn't scratch. And you can wear my skates as soon as I've had a turn!"
She dashed out of the room, and I sank onto the soft sofa, worried but also excited and wondering if I actually dared to skate on that forbidden territory. Cynthia was back in less than a minute, skates dangling from her hand. She flopped onto the sofa next to me and fastened them on.
"Now just give me a hand up, Lou, and I'll give those Roller Derby types something to think about!" she said. She launched herself across the room, zooming in a perfect circle around the central rug.
"Just one more, and you can have your turn!" She redoubled her speed, but as she rounded the far corner one leg shot out from under her. Desperately grabbing for the nearest handhold, Cynthia grasped the arm of a statue of a man on horseback. She wobbled and regained her feet with a look of relief... a look that then turned to shock as the statue tipped and fell off its base, landing with a sickening crash on the marble floor.
"Oh, shit!" cried Cynthia. "Lou, help me get this up! I think there's some glue in...
"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS!"
We both looked in horror toward the door. Mr. Benedetto stood there, a look of fury on his face. "Cynthia, didn't I tell you nobody comes into my study without permission? NOBODY!"
Cynthia looked up at him, her usual self-assurance falling to a quaver. "But, Dad, I didn't think it'd hurt just to look..."
Mr. Benedetto strode forward and pulled Cynthia to her skated feet, glaring down at her. "Wouldn't hurt? Did you know... did you KNOW that was an original Verrocchio?"
"Uh... no. Who's Verrocchio?"
Mr. Benedetto's face turned a solid purple. "Someone whose statue will NEVER be as good again! It's going to cost several thousand dollars to restore... but I'm not the only one who's going to pay for this!"
I'd never been physically punished, so it took me a few moments to understand his implication, but Cynthia knew it at once. Her hands grasped the back of her dress as Mr. Benedetto pulled her over to the chair behind his desk. He sat down and dragged her face-down across his lap, pushing her hands aside. Then he yanked up the back of Cynthia's dress and gave her a resounding slap on the seat of her underpants.
"No, Dad!" screamed Cynthia. "You know I won't ever come in here again!"
"You certainly won't!" roared Mr. Benedetto, spanking her a second time.
"Lou, help!" Cynthia cried. I really didn't know what to do, but as he hit her a third time, even harder, I summoned up the courage to run over and put my hands over her bottom. I had a strange feeling as I felt her warm, tightly-clenched buttocks through the thin layer of threadbare cotton, exciting me in a way I couldn't understand. But Mr. Benedetto shoved me aside, firmly but with what struck me even then as a surprising gentleness.
"You keep out of this!" he growled, in a voice that was clearly accustomed to be obeyed, and not just by 10- and 11-year-old children. "Unless you want the same treatment!" He seemed to dismiss me from his mind and returned to his spanking, as I backed toward the sofa and looked on. Part of me was cursing myself for my cowardice, but another part of me felt that Cynthia probably deserved it if the statue was as rare and valuable as her father had indicated -- even she had given up uttering anything but incoherent sobs, interspersed with loud screams each time her father's large hand landed on her panties. And still another part was fascinated enough that I couldn't keep my eyes off the two.
I'd seen Cynthia's underpants frequently; she'd never been particularly shy about them. In those days before girls were permitted to wear slacks to school, an active girl was forced to sacrifice her modesty if she wanted to climb trees or dangle by her knees. Yet as I stared at her now between slaps, I had a strange feeling I'd never felt before. A fold of her pants was caught between her buttocks, outlining them in bold relief as Mr. Benedetto's hand continued to rise and fall. The pink cotton was smudged with gray, the result of months of sitting on her favorite tree branch, and the elastic around one leg had come loose, dangling down Cynthia's leg as the cloth on that side hiked up to reveal her reddening buttock.
Suddenly the phone rang on Mr. Benedetto's desk, and he ceased spanking to pick it up. But he tightened his grip around Cynthia's waist with his other hand, silencing us both with a glare. "Can this wait? I'm very busy... well, what did he say? You just tell him to have his candidate there and my people will take care of the rest..." All this time Cynthia and I remained in our awkward positions, my eyes now taking in the actual hole in her threadbare underpants now that her skin provided a far deeper contrast than usual. So, evidently, did Mr. Benedetto's. He fell silent as the party on the other end evidently gave him a lengthy reply, and then continued, "Fine. Don't forget that mink coat... oh, and can you also pick up a dozen pairs of cotton panties? No! Not for Nina! Children's size. For my daughter." He suddenly pulled Cynthia's underpants down several inches, giving me a full glimpse of her crimson bottom. She stiffened, but he simply folded them back and bent to examine the label, then added, "Size 12."
Mr. Benedetto immediately pulled her pants up again, and, in apparent afterthought, loosened his grip and let her stand up. A few quick comments and he hung up the phone, turning to his daughter. "No more coming in here unless I'm with you, all right, princess?" he said softly. "Now," his vision seemingly enlarging to include me, "get out!" Then, to my amazement, he gave her a hug and a kiss, and I lost no time in getting out, Cynthia following on her wobbly skates.
Neither of us said a word until we got up to her bedroom. She sat down on her bed, then winced and rolled over on her stomach. "Lou, do me a favor and take my skates off for me, OK? Here's the key."
I did as she asked. "And there's a hot-water bottle in my drawer. Can you go to the kitchen and fill it with ice?"
I came back to find her leaning on the dresser with one hand, rubbing the back of her dress with the other. "Uh, Cynthia, I'm sorry I couldn't help. Maybe I should've gone out."
"I'm just as glad you were there," said Cynthia. "If you hadn't been, Dad would've pulled my undies down, too." Still facing away from me, she lifted the back of her skirt and slipped the ice-filled bottle into the back of her underpants. Letting her skirt fall, she sat on the bed once again. "While he was spanking me, I mean."
I looked at her. "But... when he looked at the label? And just now... I did see..."
Cynthia shrugged. "My butt, yeah. But you didn't see anything on the other side, did you?"
"Huh? I don't understand..."
"You will some day. There's a limit, that's all, and he knows it. What would your father have done if you'd done something like that?"
I thought back to the time, the previous year, I'd dropped the limited-edition Wedgwood plate. "Probably kept me from watching any TV for a whole month. But he'd never have hit me!"
"So you had to suffer for a month. At least this way, it's all over, see? That doesn't mean Dad doesn't love me. I actually feel closer to him now than I did before. At least I won't have to go to school in torn undies for awhile. How was I supposed to mention that to him, anyway?"
"I still don't understand. How could he beat you, and then kiss you like that?"
Cynthia sighed. "There's a lot you don't understand. But you will. Thanks for the ice... it really helps, though the way I feel now, it'll all be melted in a few minutes."
I never mentioned the incident to anyone after that day, and my friendship with Cynthia continued as if nothing had happened. Then one day, I don't remember how many years later, Mr. Benedetto's face stared up at me from the front page. Fascinated, I read the article, which informed me that Gino Benedetto(52), reputed organized-crime boss, had been found dead in the back room of a pizzeria he owned.
Cynthia and I drifted apart over the years, both she and I becoming involved in other relationships. I several times thought of getting in touch with her, but never got around to it.
But only today, I read an item on the society page to the effect that Cynthia Benedetto Parks had been granted a divorce from her third husband, a tennis player a little more than half her age. My latest girlfriend left me a month ago, and I think I may give her a call. After all, there aren't many of us who can say they've tried to come to the rescue of someone being worked over by a crime kingpin, and still fewer of us who've lived to tell the tale.