“Ready?” I raised the strop.
Raylene said, “Well…”
I didn’t wait. I swung the razor strop down, I hoped about half as hard as her first six. It landed diagonally, the leather crossing earlier stripes and licking round at her left hip. Raylene’s arse shook under the impact, and she began the dance of a girl getting flogged, rocking her hips up and down, and then shaking her arse from side to side. Then she breathed, “Oh-owie-owie!”
So I was happy. “Owie” is a word. It’s a word about pain, that expresses pain, but it’s a word. The person who says it is able to speak. The noises she’d made for her first six, harder, strokes hadn’t been words; they’d been simply, directly, pain noises. She’d still been stung by that last stroke, but whether she noticed it or not she’d found it easier to take. If I kept the strokes at this level her remaining two dozen strokes would be easier for her. Well, twenty-three strokes, now.
“That’s a good girl. But you can stop counting the strokes now.”
“Oh? Thank you, Sir.”
“Because the next dozen will come too fast to count. And they’ll be hard.”
“Oh. Yes, Sir.” I noticed her expression. Raylene was serene, with a little half-smile. Maybe just a quarter-smile. But I was being mean. And so she was happy.
I raised the strop.