It's winter break, and Leah and Nora are looking for something exciting to do before they have to go back to school. One of their favorite bands is coming to play in Pittsburgh, the closest they've ever come, and they don't know when they'll get to see them again. Guess it's time for an adventure.
It was Sunday afternoon sometime in late December. I had just been upstairs in my bedroom talking to Nora on Skype as I was looking for concerts to go to, together before our winter break ended. When we were younger, we’d spend hours at the local record shop, browsing the CDs. We were constantly exchanging mixtapes and playlists, and whenever we had extra money, we’d go to a local concert. Louisville had some pretty big bands come through, and some smaller indie ones that Nora and I were also interested in, so there was never a shortage of music festivities to go to. And sometimes, if we were lucky, we’d get to go to Nashville, and some of the bigger bands, or international bands, would play there.
We were in the middle of talking about the possibility of going to see Mary Lambert downtown that Friday night, when I stumbled across tour dates and places for Sigur Ros, a band that Nora and I had fallen in love with the moment we saw their first music video. They were also from Iceland, and rarely travelled to the States. When they came, they’d hit the major cities: Los Angeles, Seattle, New York… places like that. But this time, they were coming to Pittsburgh, the closest they’d ever been to Louisville.
“Oh my God, Nora, you’ll never guess what I just found,” I said, a grin spreading wide across my face.
“What?” she smiled back. I laughed. “What is it?” she said in exasperation.
“Sigur Ros is coming to Pittsburgh!” I squealed.
“No. NO FUCKING WAY. You’ve got to be kidding me.”
I grinned. “Yep!”
“That’s only 6 hours away!”
“I know, it’s the closest they’ve ever been!”
Her smile faded, “There’s no way we can make it out there though.”
“Why not? We’ve both got savings, and a ton of Christmas money.”
“Who’s going to drive us out there?”
“I will, silly!”
She scoffed. “Yeah, right, like you’ll be able to get your brother to agree to that.”
“Just watch me work my magic, Nora. You’ll see.”
That night, a couple of hours after dinner, I knocked on the door to Shane and Anthony’s office, where my brother was working on some paperwork for a client. He turned around when he heard me knock; pushing his reading glasses back up. “Oh, come on in, Leah. I was just finishing this up.” He gestured to the armchair in the corner of the room, so I sat down.
“Can I ask you a question, Shane?”
“Sure. Shoot, kiddo.”
“So, there’s this band that Nora and I really love, and really want to go see. But they’re foreign so they don’t come to the States very often and they never come to any of the smaller cities. But, they’re going to be nearby this Friday, and well, I was wondering, if maybe, you would let me go.”
“Where’s the concert?”
“Uh, downtown, I think.”
“No, I mean, what city? You didn’t specify.”
“Pittsburgh,” I mumbled, slightly under my breath, hoping that if I was quieter maybe he’d confuse it for another city.
“Excuse me, did you say ‘Pittsburgh’, Leah?”
“That’s 6 hours away. There’s no way I’m letting you girls drive that far by yourself, especially at this time of year.”
“Nora’s parents are fine with it!”
“That’s great. I’m not Nora’s parents. You’re not going, Leah. I’m sorry.”
“Why can’t you or Anthony take us?”
“I have a business conference that entire weekend, you know that. And Anthony is in New York at an academic conference for the next week. He won’t be home until Sunday.”
“That’s not fair.”
“I’m sorry, kiddo. Sometimes that’s just the way things work out.” I crossed my arms and turned my head to the side, making sure he knew I was angry. “I’d take you if I could, Leah. But I can’t.” He paused. “Was that all?”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“Alright, go upstairs and get ready for bed, then.” I sighed and rolled my eyes, walking out the door. “I love you, Leah.”
“Yeah, love you too,” I muttered, turning to trudge up the stairs and to take a shower, defeated, for now.
“No, listen, Nora, this is going to work. Shane is leaving for a business conference in Nashville Friday morning and he won’t be back until Sunday. We just wait until he’s gone and then we go. By the time he’s back, we’ll already be there and he won’t have suspected anything.”
“Do you remember what happened the last time you came up with one of these hare-brained schemes?”
“He won’t find out, Nora. I promise.”
She sighed, “Alright,” and even through the phone I could hear her smile. Come Friday, we’d be in downtown Pittsburgh, seeing Sigur Ros live for the first time.
“Emergency numbers are on the fridge. I left you 40 dollars for pizza or gas or whatever it is you might need. Make sure you keep all the doors and windows locked, and don’t answer the door for anyone you don’t know. Mrs. Wilson is right next door if you need anything—“ Shane took a deep breath in. “Are you sure you’re going to be okay here by yourself? You could come with me. It’s a pretty cool hotel. They even have an arcade.”
“Shane, I’m fine, seriously. Go, have fun, or whatever it is you do at business conferences.”
“I’m just worried about you, kiddo. I know you’re bummed about the concert.”
“Seriously, Shane, I’m fine. Go,” I said, forcefully, ready to push him out the door.
“Alright. Don’t do anything you’re not supposed to, okay?” He put an arm around my shoulders and gave me a kiss on the top of my head. “Have a good weekend, kiddo. Be careful.”
“Love you,” he said as he walked out the front door.
“Love you too.” I watched as he pulled out of the driveway and waved goodbye, then immediately called Nora, telling her I’d be on my way in 20 minutes, and then we would be on the road to Pittsburgh.
“Oh my God!” I screamed, gripping the steering wheel so hard my knuckles started to turn white. “That was amazing!”
“I know!” Nora squealed, as excited as me. “I mean, I knew they were good. But who could have thought a live performance could be that amazing!”
“It has to be in our top 5 if not our number 1 for sure,” I said, looking over at her and then turning my eyes back to the road. We were initially going to get a hotel in Pittsburgh, but then we thought it would be better just to come straight home afterwards. Less chance of getting into trouble that way.
She sighed, smiling at me, “We have to do this again sometime, Leah. I had so much fun.”
“I know. Me too.” I turned on the radio, not wanting this moment to turn into love confessions on my end. “Let’s check out the weather. I heard there might be snow along I-71.”
We stayed quiet as we turned onto the highway, listening to music and waiting for the weather report. Everything was clear until we reached just outside of Columbus, and then snow started coming down like crazy. My windshield wipers could barely keep up with it. I couldn’t see anything. The road quickly turned from clear and dry to being caked with snow and ice.
“Leah, maybe you better pull over.”
“Nora, I’m fine. Just let me concentrate.”
“Leah, this doesn’t look good. You can’t drive in this. Pull over!”
I sighed, “I’ll get off at the next exit.” She was right. I couldn’t drive in this. Not when it was snowing like this, not this late at night. We’d have to get a hotel.
I got off and pulled into a Holiday Inn. Nora and I walked up to the front desk and asked if they had any rooms available.
“I’m going to need to see some ID,” the woman at the desk told us.
I handed over my driver’s license and she looked over it with scrutiny. “You’re only 16?”
“Yeah, is that a problem?” I asked.
“Where’s your parent or guardian? Are they with you?”
“No, they’re not. Is that a problem?”
“Ma’am, can I see your ID?” the woman asked Nora.
“She’s 16, too. It’s not going to make a difference.”
“I’m going to need to call your parents, ladies. Standard procedure if you want a room.”
“Uh, never mind. Thank you. We’ll just head back home.”
“Well, that was a bust,” Nora muttered under her breath.
“Yeah, tell me about it. We’ll just find a Walmart somewhere and sleep in the car.”
I woke up to a knocking sound against the window. Startled, I glanced up and saw what looked like a security guard, telling me to open my window. I turned on the car and opened it. “Is there a problem, officer?” I asked.
“What are you girls doing out here this morning?” I looked around, and then at the clock, noticing that it was 4 in the morning.
I hesitated, but Nora spoke for me. “We got caught in the storm, and thought it would be best to pull off and find a place to stay for the night. We knew Walmart let people stay in their parking lot and we didn’t have money for a hotel, so we thought we’d stay here.”
“Can I see some identification, ladies?” he asked us
“Uh, sure,” we answered simultaneously. I pulled my license out of my wallet and handed it to him, then handed him Nora’s.
“Kentucky, huh? And I see you’re both only 16 years old. Not to mention out past the state curfew and far from home. I’m going to need to bring you into the station with me so we can call your parents.
“Sir, my brother is in Nashville this weekend at a business conference. That’s 6 hours away. There’s no way he can make it up here. Please, just let us drive back home.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, ma’am. You’ve gotta come with me.”
I sighed, and looked over at Nora, who could only shrug in defeat. We got out of the car and followed him to his car, locking the doors behind us and grabbing our belongings to take with us.
Nora and I sat in front of the officer’s desk at the police station, as he dialed first Nora’s parents’ number and then my brother’s. Because my brother was in Nashville, Nora’s parents agreed they would come and pick us both up, taking me back to my car. Either her mom or dad would ride with Nora and me, so that I could take my car back to Louisville without having to have it towed.
When I made it back to my house, it was already late in the afternoon that Saturday and my brother’s car was in the driveway. Nora gave me a sympathetic look. Her dad walked me up to the door, and rang the doorbell for me.
“Your sister’s back, safe and sound, Shane.”
“Thank you, Mr. Holloway.”
“Be a little more careful, next time, Leah, alright?”
“Yeah,” I whispered. Shane politely waved goodbye, waiting until they had left the driveway, then grabbing me by my upper arm and pulling me harshly inside the house, turning me to smack me on my bottom, not once, not twice, but three times.
“What was going through your head, Leah Marie McCutcheon!? After I specifically told you no, nonetheless!”
“I’m sorry,” I whimpered, rubbing my bottom. “I just really wanted to go.”
“I don’t even know where to begin. That concert was 6 hours away, in a city you don’t know and aren’t familiar with! The roads were icy! You barely have any experience driving yet, let alone on the highway! Do you realize what could have happened, Leah!? Do you even understand the seriousness of what you did!?”
“It’s no big deal. I’m okay. I’m fine,” I answered, still rubbing my bottom.
He grabbed me by my upper arm again and smacked my bottom again, once, twice, three times. “It most certainly is a big deal, young lady! You deliberately disobeyed me! You lied to me! You went behind my back and you put your life and Nora’s life in danger!” he shouted angrily.
“I don’t say no to hear myself talk. I say no for your own safety. You are 16 years old, Leah. 16. You are not old enough to do things like this on your own yet. PERIOD. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, sir,” I muttered, hanging my head.
“Go upstairs to your room and wait for me in the corner. I will be up in a few minutes and we will continue this conversation there.” He pointed to the stairs.
I sighed, climbing the stairs and wiping my eyes. When I got to my room, I went to the one empty corner and stood there, leaning my forehead against the wall and wondering how I could have been so stupid as to think I would get away with this.
Barely any time went by before I heard my brother come in behind me and close the door. “Come here, Leah,” he said.
I turned around and walked towards where he was sitting on the bed. He pulled me in front of him and grabbed my wrists so I’d look at him instead of trying to cover my face. “I love you, Leah. And I want you to be safe. When I took you in, that was the promise I made, that I’d keep you safe, I’d take care of you and I’d protect you. That’s my job now, not just as your brother, but also as your guardian, and I don’t take it lightly. You are my responsibility, whether you like it or not. And when I tell you, you can’t do something or go somewhere, it’s not to because I’m trying to be an ass and it’s not because I like to hear myself talk. It’s for your own safety.”
I looked at him, tears starting to well up in my eyes.
“You are 16. You just got your license a couple of months ago. You have no experience in this kind of weather. You’ve never been to Pittsburgh. You’ve never driven that far by yourself. You’re not familiar with the routes or the cities along the way. You’ve never travelled anywhere by yourself before. And to be quite honest, it is dangerous for two 16-year-old girls to be downtown at night by themselves anyway, let alone in a city you’re not familiar with. You can wait until you’re older, and more experienced and more knowledgeable. You could have died last night, Leah. You could have killed someone else. You could have gotten mugged or robbed or raped.”
More tears started to stream down my face, “I’m sorry, Shane.”
“Do you understand why I said no?”
I nodded. “Yes.” I wanted to wipe my eyes, but he wouldn’t let go of my wrists.
“So you understand that I have to punish you for this?”
“Shane, please…” I whined, trying to pull away from him, but he pulled back.
“Leah, no. You deliberately disobeyed me. You’re getting a spanking, and I mean it. End of discussion.” He let go of my wrists. “Now pull down your jeans, please.”
I whined but unbuttoned and unzipped them anyway, pulling them down to my knees. Shane grabbed my hand and guided me over his lap, adjusting me before pulling down my panties. I reached my hand back, and he grabbed ahold of it, giving it a gentle squeeze, before raining down a flurry of smacks on my bottom. He whaled on my bottom, from side to side, even my thighs and my sitspots. He didn’t let up, and I couldn’t remember another time that he had spanked me this hard or for this long. Finally he stopped, and by the time he did, I was sobbing, burying my face into my pillow.
But then I felt him move behind me, and I realized it wasn’t over. I felt something smooth, like wood, on my bottom. “I’m going to give you one more spanking with the hairbrush and then we’re finished, okay? This will never happen again, Leah, is that clear?”
“Good girl,” he said, before raising the hairbrush and crashing it down on my bottom. I bit my lip, trying not to scream anymore, but failed. Within moments, I was screaming again, and sobbing, and begging him to stop. Eventually, he did, finishing up with a barrage of swats to my thighs.
I only knew he was finished because he was rubbing my back, trying to soothe me. “It’s over, Leah. I’m done. I’m finished. You’re okay. Shh. You’re okay.” When I’d finally calmed down and stopped crying, he pulled my panties back up and lifted me to sit beside him. “Have you learned your lesson?”
“Then I’m not going to take your car away, Leah. Count yourself lucky.”
That almost set me off in tears again. “Thank you,” I said as he hugged me.
“You’re welcome.” He kissed my forehead. “You are grounded for the rest of break, though.”
“Okay,” I muttered, defeated.
“I love you sis. Get some sleep. I’m sure you need it.”
With that, he left the room, turning off the light to let me rest.