Two months later, with Jim on a short leash and Harriet Beyer a frequent occupant of the couple's spare room, the young husband made his first serious mistake. Having overrun his curfew by several hours, he had hoped to creep into the house and slip into bed beside his sleeping wife - but Harriet had been waiting for him at the top of the stairs.
The ensuing lecture brought a bleary-eyed Alice to the bedroom door. In one hand she held the alarm clock from the bedside table: in the other was the heavy, polished walnut hairbrush that Jim recognised as a gift from her mother, famously handed down through generations of the family's women.
"What time is it, Jim?", Alice purred with a dangerous smile, directing the clock face towards his as if daring him to deny his guilt.
"Um. It's ten to four, sweetheart. I got..."
"...so what is it time FOR... SWEETHEART?"
Harriet Beyer provided the answer to that one: "A little lesson in responsibility, I think."
The three of them filed back into the bedroom, Harriet pressing rather too close behind her son-in-law as though to discourage any thoughts of escape - "in my own damned house", thought Jim bitterly, although he made no attempt to resist. He saw that Alice had already dragged the big round pouffe from its usual place under the dressing table to the foot of the bed. Now she made herself comfortable upon it, and in spite of himself Jim felt a twinge of arousal as the thin yellow nightdress rode up her spreading thighs. If she was aware of this distraction, Alice did not acknowledge it. "Shoes. Socks. Jeans. Right now."
His face burning, Jim removed each item in turn under the unabashed gaze of both women. Then he stood before them shifting his feet, his hands fluttering vaguely in front of his crotch.
"I think we'll have those off too", said Harriet matter-of-factly. Jim stared at her dumbly for a moment. "Your UNDERPANTS, little man; I'll take care of them for you. When we're done here you can ask me nicely for them back, and if I think you're sorry enough then maybe I'll let you have them." Jim shot a pleading look at his wife, but got only a smirk of approval in response. With a strange sense of detachment, he slid his briefs down and off, and placed them in Harriet's outstretched hand.
"Now that", said Alice, almost merrily, "looks like a young man ready for his spanking. Over you go."
As Jim lowered himself awkwardly across the soft, warm lap of his beautiful wife, he felt more miserable than at any other time he could remember. If only he'd come home early. He should have been pressed up against Alice in bed right now, instead of draped half naked and humiliated across her knee with the gloating Harriet looking on and offering direction: "Further forward, Jiminy, and up on your tippy toes. I think you've done enough backsliding today already, don't you? Let's have that bare little bottom nice and high - a lady can't blister what she can't see. Alice, shall I position him properly?" And to his horror Jim felt firm hands groping beneath his hips, uncomfortably close to his groin, as he was guided into place.
"There", said Harriet, stepping back to admire the scene. "That's the perfect position for any man who needs to learn respect for a woman."
"If you're quite done, mother", Alice smiled with mock impatience, "may I discipline my husband now? I'm itching to put this hairbrush to use."
"Just one second more, darling", replied Harriet, re-positioning herself at Jim's head and firmly gripping his chin to lift his face towards hers. "If you don't mind, I think I'd like to watch the lesson sinking in."
And so, for ten long minutes the disgraced husband was forced to look into his mother-in-law's shining eyes while the hot bite of the hairbrush made him gasp and twitch and squirm. For her part, Alice loved Jim dearly - but did not, and never would, hold back from delivering a full-force spanking to remind him of his place in the world. She continued to pepper the reddening skin, laying bruise upon bruise, long after Jim's tears had begun to run down his face and over her mother's hand.
Jim did not get his underwear back that night. Once Alice had become tired and returned to bed alone, Harriet had escorted him back to her own room - "for a nice intimate chat, just the two of us" - where he would learn that his wife, despite being a formidable disciplinarian, was not the most severe of the Beyer women. Harriet had firmly shut the door behind them, and sat upon the bed coolly regarding the fidgeting young man as he tried in vain to stretch the hem of his t-shirt low enough to recover some dignity. "I don't need to tell you how proud I am of my little girl. She's grown into a proper Beyer wife. But still, she doesn't have QUITE the stamina yet to deliver the kind of incentive you so obviously need, and I'm going to start addressing that now. Oh, and let's not have any distractions. Take off that shirt."
Moments later, a fully naked Jim was bottom up across Harriet's lap on the guest bed, and the antique hairbrush was back at work with even greater vigour than before. The older woman showed no sympathy or concern for the already ravaged state of his bottom - in fact, she seemed to relish the bucking and squealing that the brush produced when it found a particularly tender spot. "Oh, is that super-sore, little boy? Then perhaps another... few.... swats.... right... there!"
The punishment continued for a good quarter hour before Jim was allowed a brief respite. "Perhaps I shouldn't have taken that afternoon nap", mused Harriet, who had paused to trace a fingernail across her son-in-law's scorched behind, "because now I don't feel the least bit sleepy." Jim only groaned into the tear-soaked pillow gripped between his teeth - Harriet had warned him against any yelling that might reawaken his wife. He tensed as the probing finger stroked inside his upper thigh and then followed a path back up between his swollen, trembling cheeks. "Alice and I had quite a chat while you were out for so many hours, young man. It's becoming clear that you can't be trusted by yourself, so I've offered to move in here while she's on that business trip next month."
Jim's anguished expletive was deadened by the pillow, but made Harriet smile mildly.
"I KNEW you'd be pleased. Won't it be fun playing house for two weeks, just you and I? We are going to get to know each other much, much better; you can depend on that. I'm afraid you're going to have to cancel any plans you might have had outside of work - you're going to be spending your evenings and weekends either completing the chores that Alice tells me you've been neglecting, or right here across my knee learning to be the husband my daughter deserves. Alice's father, rest his soul, was twice the man you are - but even so, he was no stranger to the business side of the brush. David's discipline was the key to a loving, happy marriage and you can count on Alice to do the same for yours. Still", mused the older woman, "that's for the future. Right now", she said, once more picking up the hairbrush, "we have the rest of the night ahead of us." Briefly, she stroked the back of the brush in circles over Jim's bottom, and the cool touch of the wood was almost soothing - but she soon tired of this tease, and again raised the wicked implement above her head.
Across the landing, Alice smiled in her sleep as a muffled, rhythmic tattoo gently invaded her dreams. The soothing beat seemed to signal that all was well with the world: and it went on, and on, and on, carrying her towards the new day.