The rod landed on Sa’afia’s upper thigh, straight wood biting curved flesh. It sounded like I’d slapped her copy of Charmaine Solomon’s Encyclopedia of Asian Food on the table. Sa’afia managed to keep still, and silent, except for straightening the fingers in her left hand.
I watched the first mark form on her thigh, on plumpish flesh about an inch below her hip. I said, “How many strokes are you going to get on the backs of your thighs?”
Sa’afia opened her mouth but said nothing.
“You can speak to answer questions, stupid girl.” I had doubts about saying ‘stupid girl’. I didn’t worry that Sa’afia might wonder, even for a second, whether I really thought she was stupid. But I did worry that it made me sound silly, something like John Cleese’s Latin-teaching Centurion in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. But Sa’afia didn’t seem to think it was a caricature. Well, maybe it wasn’t a cliche. Maybe it was traditional.
So I added, “And if you think you have to say something, you can ask me for permission to speak. Um. You stupid girl.”
Sa’afia nodded, but still said nothing. She might have forgotten the question. I swung the stick again, catching her a little lower on her right thigh. Sa’afia liked to watch my eyes when I did that, it seemed. I’d ask her about it later. She puffed, as the pain reached her, and relaxed again a few seconds later. The first, fiercest, pain only lasts a few seconds. She made no sound.
I watched the stripe form where the rod had landed. Two dark red stripes, slightly raised, parallel. Like a corporal’s stripes, I thought idiotically. This is corporal punishment.
“Ten strokes. You’re going to give me ten strokes across the backs of my legs.”
Sa’afia was speaking quickly. She was a little high again from the pain – maybe we both were a little high – and she wanted to show me that she was being good.
I touched the end of the rod to her pelvic bone, just a couple of centimetres from her lips. Sa’afia slipped her left foot just a little further to the left. I took the invitation and lowered it, pressing forward so she could hold it between her thighs. I said, “That’s right, girl. Ten strokes. But we have some other business first.”