Houlihan wouldn’t be satisfied with just spanking and tickling Monica. He’d heard bits and pieces from students, heard Monica’s history from those who’d talk about it, and he wanted to make her suffer. Yes, the thrill of punishing her by giving her the kinky attention the boys didn’t want to give was exciting enough, but Monica was unaware that Houlihan would spread the word that she was to be on her best behavior. No picking on other students. No problems. As the afternoon waned, he realized he needed to contact Monica’s teachers and tell them to keep him posted on her grades. And to make some extra credit work mandatory. He also needed to chat with Brenda. He felt sorry for her. He suspected she wrote the nasty note out of spite, but he wouldn’t let on that he thought it was her. Like himself, Brenda was a victim of a woman. His little sister had gotten it all. Brenda was smart in her own right, and would get those scholarships, but she’d need them in order to get into college to land a career. It’s possible she could land a husband, but he didn’t sense that would happen. Brenda didn’t have any street smarts, it was all book smarts. She would have a rude awakening some day. But Houlihan wanted her to know that if she wanted to tell Monica how she felt about her, she should do just that—and it would be okay. He jotted down his reminders on his calendar, then stepped out for his late afternoon coffee. He’d call one of his Georgetown contacts, and then he’d go home. It was the weekend. He was excited. He took the pictures of Monica with him. The paddle and feather he left in the drawer.
Monday rolled around, and Houlihan decided he’d speak to Brenda that day, if he could. He also sent a note to her via her second to last class of the day. She showed up after school let out.
The difference between her and Monica was night and day. Brenda had a sullen, broad face and was on the chunky side. While Monica looked like a grown woman, Brenda looked like she was still in the awkward phase of adolescence … and would remain there until her mid-forties, when she would start looking old. The braces would come off, of course, but Houlihan fervently hoped Brenda was aiming for a lucrative career. She’d be no one’s trophy wife.
“I understand you’ve been having trouble with Monica,” he said. “This is my first fall here, but I’ve been trying to get a handle on the senior class and perhaps straighten out any problems before they escalate.”
Brenda shook her head. “Monica has been a problem ever since she’s been here. We went to middle school together, and it actually started then. She’s always been a little slut. No one says much about it because she gets good grades. There’s a double standard, because there was another girl in middle school, Kaley Hutchinson, and she did all sorts of things with the boys and they always got on her case … but she didn’t do well in school. She was smart, but she just didn’t like school. She was only good in one or two subjects. She skipped a lot of school too.”
“So what does Monica say to you? If you don’t mind my asking.”
Brenda looked away. “Just … mean things. Like I’ll always be fat and never have a boyfriend or get married. Boys have teased me all through school. I don’t look like anyone else. I don’t think like anyone else. And sometimes I think I’ll never belong, anywhere.”
Houlihan sat back. The usual teenage thoughts, that is, if you weren’t one of the chosen. “I’m sorry.” He didn’t dare say that life was sometimes like high school, that it was who you knew, and what you looked like and joining the clubs even if you didn’t want to join just so you could make contacts that might help you out later on.
“You have excellent grades. I’m sure you’ll do well wherever you decide to go to school. You just have one more year.”
“Yeah, but Monica has always been on my case. Always. I feel like a little nothing next to her, and even feeling superior to her doesn’t work because if you’re not a slut, you’re not popular with boys. And it’s not like they like me in the first place, and I’m smart enough to know that even sleeping with them won’t make them like me. They’ll just end up using me.”
She was probably right about that. He’d known a few girls like Brenda, unattractive but they slept with boys anyway, and it didn’t help their popularity. They just became known as the girls who were so desperate, they’d do anything.
“Why don’t you stand up to Monica? Tell her exactly how you feel?”
Brenda looked puzzled. “You mean, tell her that she’s a total slut? And she’s just … disgusting?”
“She does that to you, doesn’t she? Doesn’t she say mean things to you?”
“Well, yeah. But the thing is, I don’t know why.” Brenda was close to tears now. She tried to block Monica out of her head, but sometimes her image came into her mind every time she saw a commercial with a pretty blonde girl in it, or saw one in a magazine, or a movie.
“Tell her to back off. Or else,” said Houlihan. “Sometimes people need to learn how their words and actions affect others.” He nearly laughed. He’d made a pact with a teenage girl to get her into her first choice college if she played spank and tickle with him. He was one to talk! “Tell her she can do that kind of behavior after she gets to college, but not before. Tell her being a slut is not what the admissions staff at Georgetown considers a quality extra-curricular activity.”
“Uh … okay. Is that where she wants to go? I hardly ever talk to her, so I don’t know anything about her college choices.”
“Yes, she definitely wants to go there. She’ll do anything to go there.” Watch it Houlihan, he thought. “Yes, tell her she better get her act together. And that means leaving you alone.”
Brenda smiled. “Thanks, Mr. Houlihan. I guess I … well, I don’t stand up for myself a lot. No one ever told me to. Not even my parents. They pretty much just tell me to take things as they come, and if they’re bad, they’ll get better.”
“That’s true,” he responded, but you’re allowed to speak up. And we’re trying to get a handle on the bullying situation. It’s been a problem in schools for decades, but it’s only been recently that it’s come to light how harmful it can be. But I meant what I said. If Monica says anything, you come back with something. And let me know if she keeps bothering you.”
“I will. Thank you.” With that, Brenda left the room.
Houlihan suspected Brenda wrote that note. So he had done a little investigating. He consulted with Brenda’s advanced placement literature class. Most everything the students wrote was on computers, but Mrs. Eileen Foelber was of the old school and insisted that certain assignments be written by hand. He consulted with her and borrowed an essay Brenda had written. He compared the writing with that of the note. There was remarkable similarity, particularly with the dotting of the I’s. The photos could have come from anywhere, but he assumed that Brenda’s brother Blake had purchased a set and that she’d copied them for evidence. Blake was in the junior class, and while perusing last year’s yearbook, Houlihan gathered that he was as outgoing as his sister was reticent; he was a ladies’ man while she was a wallflower. He’d have to involve Blake in this, he assumed. He wanted someone to tell him if Monica slipped back into her old ways. He wanted to know if she accepted any more offers for private parties. After she got into Georgetown, then he could consummate what would undoubtedly become a warped affair. But before that, no. If the question of punishment did ever come up, he would say they agreed on this. Not that that would help him, but it was better than admitting that he’d been porking her since day one.
Houlihan hoped Brenda would take the hint and go after Monica. And if Monica retaliated, he fully intended to haul her in and let her have it. This would be the toughest time of Monica’s school career. She’d learn that life wasn’t fair, and that getting into the college of her choice wasn’t up to mom or dad, or even her SAT scores or grades or the college essay or behaving. Getting into college would require receiving a taste of her own medicine.
* * *
School went on that fall, like usual, except students noticed a quieter Monica O’Toole. She still stood proudly in front of the girls’ locker room mirror and admired her body, singing the chorus from “Don’cha,” and occasionally bumping and grinding as she sang, but the more public displays—like descending the main stairway in a thin t-shirt—had stopped. Some of the boys asked why.
“I don’t feel like it,” she snapped. She couldn’t very well explain she was going to give it up for Georgetown. “I’ve been doing that for the last three years. Get over it.”
It was difficult to do that. Monica was almost like a little porn queen, flaunting her body because it looked good and she felt good, not because she was forced into it. It was that very attitude that caused a sensation in her Contemporary Issues class. She boldly said if women wanted to work in the porn industry, they should be able to. That earned her a trip to the junior class counselor’s office almost a year ago.
She studied like mad, putting her energy into schoolwork. She couldn’t let her grades dip. However, that nerdy Brenda was making more and more caustic remarks. Once, when they were studying how water could carve craters and change the shape of rocks, Brenda remarked that the Grand Canyon had nothing on the size of Monica’s vagina, what with all the action it had seen. Monica was hurt, and snapped back, “Well, at least my vagina’s seen action, unlike yours.” Brenda had said at least hers wouldn’t be dragging the floor at the age of twenty five, and perhaps Monica could rest hers if she started using her mouth instead? It was sure big enough. The group of girls around Brenda had burst into laughter and the boys who were watching, snickered.
Monica wasn’t used to this. She understood that she had agreed to be punished by Houlihan, but by doing so, she realized she would lose a bit of power by backing down. Houlihan said he didn’t want any trouble from her. In a disquieting way, it dawned on her that maybe she had given up a little more than she realized.