Attitude

As she turned the key in the ignition, a red light lit up on the dashboard of her new, used car “dang, I meant to have that checked out. Oh well, I’ll have to do it tomorrow.” Chloe declared once again. Car maintenance wasn’t a top priority for Chloe; her father took care of the car she used back home. 

It was only recently that she could afford a vehicle of her own. Until then, she rode the bus or borrowed either Remi or Sophie’s cars, and they took care of the maintenance. So she thought no more about the light she made her way to work.

      Arriving home, Chloe was excited about the weekend and hanging out with her friends. But when Sophie asked, “Chloe would you mind giving me a ride tomorrow? I have an appointment, and my car is in the shop? I asked Remi, but she needs her car.” Chloe groaned inwardly.

       Chloe wanted to hang with her friends but would do anything for Sophie. She only hoped it wasn’t smack dab in the middle of the day. “Sure, Soph, what time?”  She held her breath, hoping.

     Sophie saw a slight change in Chloe’s expression. “Sweetheart, if you have plans, I can take an Uber.”

     Surprised and a bit embarrassed, Chloe replied, “Sophie, no, we were just going to the movies then dinner. I can skip the movie.”

     “Well, my appointment is at eleven and shouldn’t be more than an hour or two. If you really wouldn’t mind, I’d appreciate the ride.” Sophie observed the girl; although she didn’t want to ruin her plans, taking an Uber would cost a small fortune.

      “I’ll let them know tonight when I see them,” Chloe said as she made her way up the stair to her room.

      The following day Chloe slept in, arriving downstairs in just enough time to take Sophie to her appointment. Chloe fixed herself a piece of toast and a mug of coffee to go and quickly met Sophie by the door. “I thought you had forgotten,” this comment, although innocent irritated Chloe.

      Once in the car, Chloe started the engine but waited for Sophie to buckle in before putting the vehicle in gear. Then while driving down the side street, Chloe nibbled on the toast with one hand then while holding the wheel with the toast hand, she picked up the coffee with the other. “Chloe, watch what you’re doing.” Sophie snapped.

       Chloe rolled her eyes and snapped back. “Sophie I’ve got this.”

       They both fell silent, lost in their thoughts. Sophie stared straight ahead while Chloe finished her toast, drove, and drank her coffee simultaneously. It wasn’t until Chloe reached for the radio dial that Sophie again voiced concern. “Chloe, put the coffee down before you fiddle with the radio.” In response, Chloe gave a dramatic sigh. “Enough, little girl!” Sophie’s tone was all the warning Chloe needed.

          This time the silence felt awkward even after Chloe squeezed out a soft apology.

          In an attempt to ease the tension, Sophie said, “we’re ok; I just want you to be careful, is all.” As she glanced toward the girl, she noticed the maintenance light lit up on the dashboard. “Chloe, your warning light is on.” Chloe just nodded dismissively. Sophie, now determined, asked, “How long has that been on?”

         Chloe answered, “I don’t know exactly, maybe a few weeks.”

         Sophie sensed the girl was being evasive, so she asked again. “Chloe, how many weeks exactly?” Her tone was one of determination.

         Softly Chloe said. “Well, I guess maybe four or so.” Then she held her breath, waiting for Sophie’s response.

          Sophie took a few minutes to digest what Chloe said, then a few more to tamp down her annoyance. When she was pretty sure she wouldn’t make a situation worse, Sophie said. “We’ll go to the garage right after my appointment.”

        Chloe whined, “Sophie I can’t. I have plans.”

        The girls whining didn’t faze Sophie, “Consider your plans changed.”

        Up a notch went Chloe’s voice as she began to protest. “Sophie, that’s not fair! You can’t just change my plans like that!”

        Unfazed, Sophie explained, “Little girl, you are lucky your engine hasn’t seized. Have you done any maintenance on this vehicle, or do you gas and go?” Seeing the blank look, Sophie understood the girl had no clue how to maintain a car. She felt partly responsible for the girls’ lack of knowledge. After all, she and Remi helped her find the car, and neither of them thought to explain essential maintenance.

          “What are you talking about? It’s riding fine.” Chloe said.

          Sophie took a deep breath before speaking. “I think Remi and I just assumed you knew how to care for a car. Owning a car requires regular maintenance, like oil changes, tires, and brakes. All these things get done after so many miles.” The girls’ blank look remained, so Sophie continued. “The light is either a reminder, or it’s trying to tell you something is wrong. Either way, it needs to be checked right away.”

          “This is so unfair,” Chloe grumbled, but luckily it was almost time for Sophie’s appointment.

          While unbuckling her seatbelt, Sophie said, “Little girl, you can wait here, or there’s a coffee shop around the corner. I’ll text you when I finish.”   “And Chloe, lose the attitude.” Sophie closed the door leaving Chloe to stew in her juices.

          For a good ten minutes, Chloe did just that; she grumbled and fussed before coming to terms with the truth. And the fact was she knew the light was on and chose to do nothing about it. After calming slightly, Chloe made her way to the coffee shop. The text arrived shortly after twelve-thirty, so Chloe tossed her empty cup and headed for the car.

         Instead of getting in the car, Chloe leaned on the side as she watched Sophie coming her way. Once the older woman arrived, Chloe said, “Sophie, I’m sorry, you know, for being cranky earlier.”

        Sophie smiled brightly before wrapping the girl in a warm embrace. “It’s ok little girl. Let’s take your car in and see what’s going on. We can at-least get the oil changed. Then we can get some lunch, my treat.”

        Chloe agreed even though she was given no choice. Plus, she’d already been warned several times today about her attitude.

        Sophie added, “I think my mechanic will be to busy but there’s a Grease Monkey next to the shop. They may also be busy but they’re a quick in and out kind of place.” Sophie went on about oil changes and car upkeep. Most of which just went over Chloe’s head.

        Pulling into the parking lot, Chloe knew it wasn’t a good sign when the line was five or six cars deep. Once again, she couldn’t keep her displeasure to herself. “Come on, Sophie! You’re being ridiculous. We will be here all day.”

        “Chloe, watch the attitude. Listen, this is your last warning.” Sophie’s stare bore into the girl until Chloe closed her mouth. But it didn’t stop her frustration from gaining strength. This morning’s toast had worn off, and she was now starving. Plus, spending all afternoon in this line, she’d miss her dinner plans. As Sophie watched the girl, it dawned on her the kid was hungry and waiting in this line was not going to work. “Chloe, pull out of the line, please.”

       Chloe shocked at Sophie’s directions, thought maybe her luck changed, and she’d be able to meet her friends after all. Unfortunately, Sophie quickly squashed her joy. “I think we both need to eat. Let’s go to the diner over there; that should make it easier waiting in this line.”

        Chloe’s irritation rose while doing as instructed, but as she did, she also voiced a few expletives, and Sophie heard everyone. Once again, in the silence, you could hear a pin drop, and as they entered the restaurant, instead of sitting at their assigned seat, Sophie directed Chloe to the women’s room. Checking for other patrons, Sophie pointed to the more oversized accessible stall. Realization finally hit, and Chloe felt herself begin to panic. “No, Sophie, please not here.”

        Having had enough insolence, Sophie declared, “Little girl, I’m not asking! Bare your bottom now!” Hands-on hips Sophie’s patience frayed.

        In a bid of desperation, Chloe’s eyes pleaded, but self-preservation had her hands moving to obey. She undid the button of her jeans then lowered them along with her panties.

        “Put your hands on the handrail, then back up two steps.” Doing as told, Chloe felt embarrassed. Just knowing they were in a restaurant bathroom where anyone could hear, let alone walk in on them. The snide remarks and ungrateful attitude she flung at Sophie were now flooding her memories. A shiver ran up Chloe’s spine as she heard Sophie unfasten the buckle of her belt and cringed when she listened to the leather strap slide through Sophie’s pant loops.

        “Please Sophie!” Chloe pleaded once again as her fingers gripped tightly onto the metal rail.

         “Oh, little girl, you’ve had more than enough opportunities. Now let’s get on with it.” because of the small area, Sophie aligned herself along the left side of Chloe’s body. She held the folded-over leather belt in her right hand, ready to give a quick and deliberate lesson. “Hold still,” Sophie admonished as she placed her left hand on Chloe’s back while lifting the belt in a half arc before bringing it down in a sharp swat.

       Chloe held her breath, waiting for the first of what she knew would be many strikes to land, and thoroughly regretting every nasty word she uttered today. When the first swat landed, Chloe almost screamed out loud. Luckily her gritted teeth muffled the sound. Sophie wasted no time landing swat after swat as Chloe did her best to stay quiet and prayed that no one would enter the room. Luckily the onslaught ended almost as quickly as it began.

        As Sofie laced the belt back through her pant loops, Chloe fought to get her breathing under control. Once the belt was firmly in place, Sophie helped the girl rise, handed her some toilet paper then gave her a quick hug. After reassuring the girl, Sophie said, “Take a few moments to compose yourself then meet me at the table.”

        Wiping tears away, Chloe agreed. “Yes ma’am,” than before Sophie left the stall, she softly added. “I’m sorry, Sophie.”

        Sophie’s arms once again wrapped around the girl “yes, I know, and we’re good. Now pull those pants up, and let’s get some food.” Nodding in agreement, Chloe watched as Sophie left, then bent to pull her pants up and over swollen cheeks. Among today’s regrets, she would have to add tight jeans; why she thought they were ever a good idea, she’d never know.

        After a few minutes of splashing water on her face, Chloe held her breath and reached for the door. On the other side would either be people staring or not noticing, oh how she hoped for the latter. In a moment of determination, she flung the door open. All eyes but one knowing pair were distracted. The one looking belonged to a young lady around her age. Chloe’s eyes held the young woman’s stare for a beat, but embarrassment had them both looking away.

       Looking around the restaurant, Chloe inwardly groaned as she spotted Sophie sitting at a table instead of a booth with cushion seats. Once she reached her chair, she gingerly lowered herself onto the hardwood. They quietly ate lunch, each woman coming to terms with the day’s events. After they ate, Sophie paid the bill then escorted Chloe to the car.

       This time sitting in the car Chloe felt a lot calmer, even though the seats rubbed terribly. When their time came, she quickly jumped out gladly dropping keys into the mechanic’s hand. Sophie chuckled at the girl’s dramatic reaction and happily followed her inside to the office. Fortunately, the oil change plus new air filters and wipers were all done in a speedy time frame. After a day of fussing, Chloe opted for a quiet evening at home. Choosing to nurse her sore bottom while watching a movie with Remi and Sophie.

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