A girl goes on holiday by herself for the first time, and meets a problem. By a new writer to us.

By Geraldine

Chapter 1 Nova Alba :  A spot of bother

It was 1996 and ever since I was thirteen I had been attending a well known, if rather traditional, girls boarding school in Dorset. It was Dad’s solution after Mum had tragically died a year earlier. Dad works overseas most of the time and, even at his best, he wasn’t really suited to bringing up a teenage girl. To start with, I lived with his mum, my Gran, and went to school locally. She tried her best, I suppose, but we argued a lot of the time and I admit I can be a bit of a pain sometimes. Plus Gran was not so young any more and now I was too old to smack, she probably found me rather a handful. The last time I was across her knee, I think I was fourteen and it probably hurt her hand more than it hurt me. But being away at boarding school, she now just had to look after me in the holidays.

School wasn’t too bad, but as I said, it was rather traditional. We had to wear uniform during the week and whenever we went outside the school grounds. That was a blouse, tie, kilt and knee socks. As a special privilege, Sixth Formers, which I now was, were allowed their own clothes, as approved by the housemistress of course, but included grown up nylon tights, but only for trips to the local town on Saturdays. For lessons, we still wore the standard school uniform.

Discipline was also traditional, and my house mistress didn’t share Gran’s view that I was too old for corporal punishment, even though it was now officially banned. In fact, earlier that year, two of us had been caught smoking near the school entrance. Our house mistress was supposed to report us to the Head who might then have informed our parents. But there was a choice. For me and Rita that day, it involved us bending over the chair in her study for three whacks with the slipper on our knickers.

I was seventeen and it was coming up to the summer holidays. I was due home and didn’t really know what to do with myself. I would have been bored out of my head  just hanging around at Gran’s and had hoped to go away for a few weeks backpacking with a friend. In the end, my friend had to let me down, as she was told she had to go on holiday with her parents. One of the good things about Dad’s job is that he can get generous discounts on flights and I had planned we should go somewhere exotic and tropical. Of course, after all the messing around with Rita, my best friend, who was supposed to come, it was then too late to go where I wanted and I ended up with three and half weeks in Nova Alba,  a small island that used to be ‘ours’, not far from Madeira. The weather should be nice and the island was supposed to be very pretty, but it was a bit quiet for a teenager looking for adventure.

As expected, there was a bit of an argument with Gran about my going on my own, but Nova Alba has a reputation for being very safe (they probably mean boring!) and I told her I had already fixed my accommodation in a Youth Hostel. That was true, but only for the first few nights. So anyway in the end she agreed. I packed a great big rucksack, stuck my money down my knickers, well actually in a money belt, and Gran dropped me off at the airport.

“Please, please be careful, Sally. Don’t do anything stupid. What would I say to your father? He’d never forgive me.”

“Don’t worry, Gran. I’ll be alright. Back before you know it and you have the address of the hostel.”

The sun was hot and the sky was blue when I arrived. The hostel was clean and I met some other girls about my age and settled down to enjoy myself. Everything was fine. We bought food in a neighbourhood store or from the market and cooked it in the hostel’s kitchen. Well, I bought most of it, because the other girls were running short of money towards the end of their holiday. But it was all quite cheap.

The weather was warm enough to go swimming in the sea, so that’s what we did most days. I wore my old swimsuit from school, not my usual holiday bikini. They are a bit funny like that on the island, but I’d done my research before going, so was prepared. And no short shorts were allowed, either.

The only thing was, my new friends were due to fly out at the end of the week. But I decided I would move on then as well, to a bit of the island known for its beautiful hills and lakes. I thought I could maybe camp. So, we all checked out of the hostel together. My friends went off to the airport and I went to the bus station to get a ticket.

But disaster struck!! My money belt seemed to have disappeared. Of course it had to come off when we went swimming and I used to stuff it into the bottom of my rucksack. I tipped everything out and went through it all, ten times at least, but it was gone. Luckily, I still had my passport, because that had been in the hostel safe, together with the air tickets and l had the bit of cash I carried around in my jeans. But I still had over two weeks to survive. I just didn’t know what to do and sat miserably on the ground. My so-called friends must have taken it from the bag, but they were in the air and half-way home by now.

I kept counting the money I had left. Could I manage? Well I was planning to camp anyway, and provided I didn’t eat I was determined not to have to contact Dad or Gran. I wanted to prove I could manage by myself. I had known the other girls were short of money because while I was buying food for us at the store, they used to sneak out with some tins and bottles and stuff while the assistant was busy. It was really easy; the locals are all so slow and trusting. I decided I wouldn’t take much, just enough to keep me going for a few days camping. I could still afford to buy bread and a little fruit from the market. So I had a plan.

The mini-mart was quite crowded at lunch times and that’s when I crept in. I was wearing my day-bag across my front and the idea was to slip a few tins and things in there while no one was looking, then pay for some bread at the counter. It had worked well enough for the other girls. But not for me! Maybe I had a guilty face or was just plain nervous. Anyway, the shopkeeper grabbed me by the arm and made me open my bag as I tried to slip out of the door.

“You’ve been in and done this before, haven’t you?”

“No, it wasn’t me, honestly, not before, and I was going to pay. I really was. I just lost my money.”

The woman grabbed my purse and opened it. Of course there was enough small change to pay for what I had taken. She didn’t know it had to last me nearly three weeks.

“You’re just another little thief! And I think you need to be taught a good hard lesson this time. I’m calling the police.”

She pushed me into her back office and picked up the phone.

It was about 30 minutes, I suppose, before the blue and white car drew up. The police officer was very slow and deliberate, taking down a statement from the shop lady. I just waited nervously, but still felt totally ashamed of myself. What had I been thinking of? What would Gran say, or Dad? Would he have to know?

Then I was put into the back of the car and driven down to the station.

“I expect you’ll be in court tomorrow. It’s usually just seven days for a first offence.”

That wasn’t very reassuring!

Once at the police station, more hanging around, then the sergeant came to take my details. He was thumbing through my passport. I thought he must be a slow reader.

“Date of  birth?”


“How old are you, Miss?”

“Seventeen, nearly eighteen.”

“Well, we can’t have you here then. Under-eighteens go to the Children’s Service. This is the Adult Court. I’ll have to give them a call.”

I thought then, maybe I’d get away with it. Just a good telling-off probably.

The girl who came for me a few minutes later can’t have been more than twenty-two or twenty-three herself and appeared quite friendly. Her name was Janine. She took me through some corridors to another part of the building and into a new room. Ominously, it had ‘Juvenile Detention Unit’ written on the door and contained two beds and a table, with a locker room and a bathroom leading off.

“What’s going to happen to me, Miss?”

“Normally, we would call your parents to collect you, but we can’t do that, can we? So you’ll have to stay here tonight. Either way, you will be in front of the Children’s Counsellor ten o’clock tomorrow morning.”

“And then what?”

“That’s up to her. She might send you to the Youth Residential Centre outside town for a couple of weeks, but I wouldn’t think so, since you’re a visitor, or just a few days here, hard labour in the kitchens, peeling potatoes, or maybe the cane.”

“I’ve never been caned.”

Well, of course it was officially banned years ago in English schools, although some people are always talking about bringing it back. I don’t know how they had missed my housemistress’s slipper, but somehow they had.

“Oh you’d survive. Anyway, it’s up to her,” was Janine’s not very cheering reply.

Chapter 2: Crime and Punishment

Before she left me to my thoughts, Janine told me some supper would be sent in later and that she would return about nine o’clock the next morning.

“Sleep well.” She offered blandly, as she closed the door behind her.

I didn’t sleep much that night and didn’t feel like much supper or breakfast, but Janine was her normal cheery self when she came to collect me. We went along more corridors to a larger meeting room. The Counsellor was sitting behind a desk with two others; apparently they were social workers. There was another table where my parents would have sat, and also a secretary. Although I felt scared and alone, I was still very glad Gran knew nothing of this.

That left just me and Janine standing.

The Counsellor was a middle-aged woman, dressed in a smart business suit and she stared hard at me.

“I’ve read the statement from the shopkeeper. Did you attempt to steal from the store?”

“Yes Miss, but…”

“Ma’am. Call her Ma’am.” Janine whispered.

“Yes, Ma’am, but you see, I had no money.”

She cut across me.

“Miss Robins, whether or not you had money, and by the way I understand you did have enough to pay, is no excuse for theft. Or perhaps you think it is?”

“No, Ma’am.” I subsided meekly.

“We always try to welcome visitors to Nova Alba, but you are not the first youngster I have seen who thinks they can take advantage of our hospitality. Well, I see no purpose in sending you to the Youth Centre. You will be detained here for 24 hours working in the kitchen, and you will receive 6 strokes of the cane.”

“Have you anything to say?”

I swallowed hard.

“No, Ma’am.”

She nodded to Janine, who led me out and back to the room. We had been gone barely more than ten minutes.

“When’s it done?”

“You have to change first. You’re not allowed to wear your own clothes in Detention. Then I take you over to the Office. It’s one of the lady sergeants who canes you. What size shoes are you?”

Janine opened the locker room and took out a grey smock which was hanging there.

“Get undressed.”

I slipped off my jeans and held up the smock; a bit short on me, but not too bad.

“Everything, Sally; you’re not allowed any of your own clothes.”

She handed me a pair of full cotton knickers. I was glad of them later. Then she held out dark green plimsolls and short white socks.

“Ready Sally? I’ll call the Office. It’s best get it over with. OK?”

While we waited, Janine warned me what to expect.

“You have to bend over a sort of high stool. You’re supposed to grab hold of the rungs running up the side, but if you won’t, or you move, then she calls in someone to help hold you.”

I think Janine saw how scared I looked.

“You must just try to be brave, Sally. It will soon all be over.”

The official executioner, I discovered afterwards, all the kids call her ‘Miss Thwack’um’, very Dickensian, was a woman of about fifty in a blue uniform, grey hair done in a bun and wearing steel rimmed glasses. I was left standing nervously in front of her as she sat behind her desk. She held a long stick of bamboo in her hand, not thick, like a pencil, and it looked very whippy. I tried not to stare at it.

“Thank you, Janine,” she said, and my only friend left the room. Then she turned her full attention to me.

“Now, Sally, you are here for six strokes. I shall ask you to bend over the stool and you must try not to move until I give you permission. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Miss.” I answered weakly.

“If you don’t think you can manage, I will ask Janine to come back and help you. Would you prefer that?”

I shook my head. I would’ve rather died than have Janine hold me down.

“Well, we shall have to see. Now please bend over the stool.”

I walked over to it and leant forward, grasping the top rung for support.

“Over properly, please Sally.”

I bent right over, on tiptoes, taking hold tightly of the lower rungs, my bottom fully presented for her to cane.

She came across and lifted the hem of the smock, tucking it into the top of my knickers.

“Are you ready?”

I just sort of choked. But anyway I don’t think she was waiting for my reply.


An electric shock went across my bottom. I yelped and released my hands.


I grabbed the rung again, biting my lip.

Thwack, Thwack! In quick succession.

I gasped, my eyes full of tears, but I was determined not to let her see me cry. I could feel the cotton knickers sticking to my skin.

Thwack, Thwack. Two more.

That was five, and I could just about cope with the immediate shock, but felt a strong hot ache building up across the whole of my bottom.

“Just one more. Hang on in there, Sally.”

I felt a hand rest lightly on the middle of my back and sensed the swing of the cane before it hit.

“Shit! Oh shit! Bloody hell, that hurt!”

She had taken a long stroke, bringing the cane upwards and landing square across both cheeks, about an inch below my knickers.


This time I did yelp and the tears ran freely down my cheek. No pretence at bravery now.

When I could, I slowly, stiffly, stood up. The lady was back behind her desk.

“Come here, Sally.”

I moved gingerly back across the room to where she was sitting.

“You’ve had your caning. I do hope it was a lesson for you.”

I nodded, feeling very, very sorry for myself.

“Now, you will be taken to the kitchens and put to work for the day. If there is any trouble, you will find yourself back in here.”

She called Janine in, who looked quickly at me and led me out.

As we walked back to the Detention Unit, we passed some other people in the corridor. I didn’t really see them as my eyes were glued to the floor, but they must have known where I’d been and what had happened.

Janine asked me if it still hurt; bloody stupid question, and suggested I go and wash my face in the bathroom. When I got back, she told me she would get some lunch for me on a tray and then take me over to the kitchen at 12.30.

I told her I didn’t want any lunch and, anyway, I couldn’t sit down to eat.

“Don’t be silly, Sally. You didn’t have any breakfast, and you won’t be the first girl in this room to eat standing up.”

There were about 5 or 6 girls and women working in the kitchen. They seemed to come and go, and a couple of them weren’t much older than me. The boss was a motherly type called Mrs Travis who wasted no time setting me to work washing up dishes.

It wasn’t too bad, although I had to put up with a bit of good natured joshing. Would I like to swap for a sitting-down job peeling the spuds? Don’t move, we want to play noughts and crosses on your bum; that sort of thing. The young girls were worst and when they saw me taking a bit of a breather, delighted in warning me that I could be sent back to Miss Thwack’um.

Mrs Travis finally decided enough! And spoke sharply to them.

“I don’t need any of your help keeping order in my kitchen, thank you. And if I see any of you girls, slacking or being cheeky, I’ll warm your backsides with my spoon. Any of you! And it wouldn’t be the first time, would it Naomi?”

Naomi went red as a beetroot.

“No, Mrs Travis.”

At the end of the day, I was allowed to take some supper back to eat in the room and was told to be back at seven o’clock sharp, for breakfast in the kitchen, followed by a full morning’s work. I slept pretty much OK that night, but on my tummy.

Actually, I didn’t mind so much working in the kitchens. I was used to it. At school, the slipper wasn’t the only option, sometimes we could be sent to help cook, particularly on Saturdays when otherwise we would have free time. Cook knew it was for vegetable-peeling or washing-up, and that any slacking should be corrected with her wooden spoon. I don’t suppose she was supposed to whack us either, but no one ever complained. I’m sure most parents knew and, while my Gran didn’t, I didn’t want to encourage her to review her no-more-smacking policy, or even maybe try a slipper.

So it wasn’t too hard to go back to work the next day and, by the middle of the morning when we all stopped for a drink and a rest, I was quite enjoying myself. The joshing had mostly stopped and there was just a bit of a dull ache across my bottom. I could now sit down with no real problem. That is, unless I sat back and the chair caught the tender bit from the last whack. That was still really sore. Janine came in while I was drinking my tea and said she would see me in the Detention Unit at noon to give me back my own clothes. That was my twenty-four hours served in the kitchen and I would then be free to go.

I said goodbye to Mrs Travis, who thanked me for my hard work, and to the girls, and waited for Janine.

So, I was very surprised when it wasn’t her but the Counsellor, who I had learnt by then was called Angela Davies, walked in.

“Good morning, Ma’am.”

She smiled and said that wasn’t necessary and that ‘Mrs Davies’ would do now. She asked me what my plans were. I said I supposed I should ask my Gran to send some more money. I would still like to see the famous lakes before going home and would try again to get the bus there.

“Well, if you would like to, Sally, my husband and I are taking our children up to the lakes for a few days. There is lots of room in our cottage and you would be welcome to come and stay with us.”

I didn’t know what to say, I was so surprised.

“I wouldn’t want you to leave without seeing our beautiful country and having some happier memories of your holiday. The lakes are lovely at this time of the year, although I can’t pretend the cottage will be that peaceful. Not with my twin girls, they’re nearly ten and won’t give you, or anyone else, a minutes rest.”

“Oh, I’d love to. Are you really sure?”

But it seemed she was.

“That’s settled. I can’t get away until about five, but will pick you up then. And when she’s free, Janine will come along to give you back your own things.”

She smiled.

“I’ll have Mrs Travis told that you have volunteered for some more washing-up this afternoon!”

Janine came by about five minutes later and got my rucksack out of the locker room.

“I hear Angela’s taking you up to the cottage for a few days. She probably thinks you’ll amuse the twins. Don’t worry, they’re not too bad, kept at a safe distance.”

I asked how she knew them.

“They’re my cousins. Aunt Angela, well she’s my aunt. We all take holidays in the cottage.”

Janine asked if I wanted to change into my own clothes before going back to the kitchen, but I decided not to. All the girls wore a sort of washable smock in the kitchen, although in a blue check, not in my punishment grey, and also the green plimsolls were more practical than trainers. I suppose I could’ve changed out of their shoes and socks, but Naomi, who was only a year or so older than me, still wore socks, so I didn’t bother.

When I got back to the kitchen, Mrs Travis and Janine were laughing together.

“What has she done now?  If Miss Thwack’um’s too busy to deal with her, I can always put her across my knee.”

“Only if she misbehaves herself this afternoon, Mrs Travis. Anyway, I’ll be back to pick her up about four-thirty.”

Janine winked at me and left.

Mrs Davies was running a few minutes late when she came to pick me up, so I was ready, dressed back in my own jeans and trainers. Actually, I kept on their knickers, Janine said they wouldn’t mind, because all mine were dirty from the rucksack.

On the way over to her house, Mrs Davies stopped at the shop, the scene of my earlier crime.

“I want you to go in there and apologise, Sally. Mrs Green is expecting you.”

She was serving someone when I went in, but after she’d finished, I shamefacedly said I was very sorry and it wasn’t the sort of thing I would normally do.

“Well, you’ve been punished now, so it’s forgotten as far as I’m concerned. I expect old Miss Thwack’um laid them on pretty hard.”

I confirmed that she certainly had.

“You are a very silly girl you know. If only you had told us what had happened, we would all have been happy to help you out. Now, make sure you enjoy the rest of your time here and, of course, you’re always welcome to come in to the shop again.”

Chapter 3: Holiday in the Lakes

Back in the car, I told Mrs Davies that I must try to send a postcard to Gran. I should really have bought one in the shop, but had been too embarrassed. I could send one from the Lakes.

By the time we got home, it was too late to head for the cottage that night. But I was introduced to John, Mrs Davies’ husband, and to the terrible twins, and then after supper we packed for an early start the next morning. Before that, though, Angela took one look and decided all my clothes were going straight into the washing machine. I was just allowed to keep my jeans and shoes. Apparently the family kept old, outgrown clothes at the cottage to be used as needed. So I needn’t worry, there would be something that would fit me.

The road was steep and twisty as we drove up into the hills the next morning.

“OOOOhhhh, Whoosh!”

The twins came with full sound effects and flung themselves energetically around the back seat, for ‘balance’. I began to see Janine’s point. And the few sharp words from their mum seemed to be only temporarily effective. But we finally arrived just before lunch, which was a picnic using the cold food we brought with us. The twins, after dumping their bags in a room upstairs with bunkbeds, rushed off into the garden.

“We’d better find you some clean clothes, Sally.”

I think I had the spare/guest room. There were two beds, and lots of cupboards and drawers.

“Look, there are some skirts and dresses in the wardrobe. Find something practical for messing around locally, no need to be too smart, underwear in these drawers, shoes over there and, if you’re very lucky, you’ll find matching socks here.”

Angela left me to it while she prepared the picnic. I chose a brown cotton skirt with two patch pockets, and a cream patterned top. There was a heap of shoes in a box, mostly the ubiquitous plimsolls, some sandals and odd flip-flops. I put on some plimsolls that fitted and found a pair of white ankle socks.

“That’s nice, Sally. Just right for up here. Does it all fit?”

After lunch, we walked around the area to show it off to me. There was a small village about a mile away, close to the lakeside, with a couple of shops, a playground and a smart restaurant. The twins kept dragging me off to see things and we also larked around for a bit in the playground. In the evening, we played Scrabble on the big table until it was time for Sue and Jane to go up to bed. Fun though they are, a bit of peace and quiet was welcome and I was glad to sit with a cup of tea and just chat. Angela asked me about Gran and life at home. How did I like school? I had to admit that Gran found me a bit difficult at times and that well, my school reports weren’t all they might be.

“It sounds like you would benefit from a firm hand, young lady.”

I admitted I probably would.

“Well, you have come to the right place now.”

And I was not entirely sure whether or not she was joking.

Angela was quite patient with the twins, but they knew that when she said ‘no’, she meant it. They sailed close to the wind sometimes, particularly Jane, but seemed to know when to draw back and so mostly avoided any serious trouble.

The next few days passed very happily. We climbed the local hills for the view, had a boat out on the lake, but also lazed around on deckchairs in the sunshine when we could.  Most afternoons, the twins insisted we should play french cricket on the lawn behind the cottage. John always played, but Angela often used the excuse that she had to get supper.

We were staying until Wednesday.

Tuesday was John’s birthday, and that was the original reason for coming. To celebrate, it was decided we should all have a nice dinner at the restaurant in the village, and the twins were scrubbed and told to be on their best behaviour. There were some smart dresses in my room which Janine had worn when she was younger, and I found a blue one with half sleeves which Angela agreed looked nice on me. I had been wearing my hair in bunches to keep it tidy, but brushed it out. I still had my own leather sandals with low heels which I cleaned up a bit, and I thought Angela wouldn’t mind if I had bare legs; I didn’t really want to put on knee-socks, particularly for going out somewhere smart in the evening.

“Quite the young lady,” was John’s comment.

Angela was more practical, came into my room and gave me a new pair of nylon tights.

“I thought you might want to wear these.”

I hugged her.

“It’s only a pair of tights, and you be careful you don’t snag them. You may not be a child anymore, but you’re not too big to be put across my knee.”

I think we all had a good time. The kids ate pizza and technicoloured ice cream, while we enjoyed proper food. Angela and John had shared a bottle of wine. Well, I got one small glass of it, and we walked back up to the cottage, a little bit sad that we were going in the morning.

No one had really said anything about my leaving, and I was very happy to stay on with the family. Life here wasn’t actually so bad. I suppose it was a bit old-fashioned compared with home, and teenage girls my age seemed to be still regarded as children. But I got used to that, since it was the same for everyone. OK, I got that caning, but I had been shoplifting and would probably have gone to court at home. Even if they had let me off, it would have stayed on my record for ever. I think I preferred the cane.

After we got back home, the week’s dirty clothes were tipped onto the pile that already contained the contents of my rucksack from Friday, and I was told that I could work overtime with the washing machine next day. The weather was still lovely, so it would all dry quickly on the line.

Angela had to go back to work, and the twins normally went to the lady next door who kept an eye on them, alongside her own nine year old, and also gave them lunch. I was to get myself something out of the fridge.

“Molly will probably come over and keep you company, if she’s nothing on.”

Molly was the neighbour’s sixteen year old daughter and was glad to get away from the kids. With the two of us, we had got two full loads done and hung out by noon, and I was starting to think I would make a sandwich.

“Oh, mum said you’d better come over to us for lunch.”

So I did, gratefully.

Molly’s mum was obviously a good friend of Angela’s, and I got the impression she knew exactly who I was and why I was there, but she didn’t say a word. Just asked about the holiday and suggested some other places I might like to see.

“Maybe you and Molly could go together?”

But that afternoon Molly had already arranged to go round to see some other friends and said I would be welcome to come. So I borrowed a bike and we cycled off.

On the way, Molly said: “I overheard Mum talking to Auntie Angela last night. Is it true? Did you get sent to Miss Thwack’um?”

I muttered that I had, but had hoped it was a secret. The twins didn’t know and I hoped not her kid brother.

“No, I’m sure he doesn’t. I only heard by accident.”

I begged her not to tell anyone and she said she wouldn’t. At least, not if I told her all about it. Parents on the island, apparently, use the threat of Miss Thwack’um to scare the younger kids and all kinds of rumours got spread. She canes the boys as well, at least, Molly said, til they were sixteen.

So, a bit embarrassed, I quietly told her about the stick and how you bend over a sort of stool, but what she really wanted to know was: “Did you have to take your knickers down?”

I told her that I didn’t.

“Did you cry?”

“I tried not to, but the last whack hurt so much that I did, a bit, just at the end.”

That seemed to satisfy her and, true to her word, she never mentioned it to anyone else. She told me they got the slipper sometimes at school. It was quite serious and your parents got sent a note to sign. So you usually got it twice.

The crowd of us spent the afternoon down by the headland. The girls mostly chatted, studiously ignoring the boys who were showing off by climbing up high on the rocks. The next day, a picnic had been planned and I said I would help get stuff ready. I only hoped that Angela had no more washing lined up for me to do.

We got back just in time to eat. Angela had already brought in most of the clothes, which were now all dry, but I rushed to help with the rest.

“And where have you been all afternoon, young lady?”

I explained.

“But I suppose you do know how to use an iron?”

So, until bedtime I was kept busy ironing, while Angela washed up, then had some office work to sort out.

As I finished, Angela said: “Now that’s all done, you’ll be free to go on that picnic tomorrow.”

“Yes, Mrs Davies, Ma’am.”

I was feeling increasingly relaxed now with Angela and the family.

“Don’t you be cheeky with me. You’re not yet too old, you know.”

The picnic was great fun. I always told people, I’d had to go to the police for help when I lost most of my money somewhere, and that’s when Mrs Davies had taken pity on me. Well, parts of it were almost true. We were mostly all about the same age, with just a few who had already started at college. Some of the older boys were nice and I think they fancied me. We also went to the beach and one evening to the cinema, where we pretended to be eighteen to see the latest Hollywood trash. They didn’t seem to worry too much about IDs, unlike the bars which apparently always checked, at least in the evenings.

But not, Molly promised, at lunch time when we went to meet the college crowd at one of the popular places in town. No one said anything; we looked eighteen in our jeans and anyway the boys went up and bought the drinks.

The wrong day! The wrong bar!

We had been there about half an hour, I guess, when Angela’s husband, John, came in from the room at the back. He did a double take when he saw me and Molly, and walked over.

“Sorry boys, can I borrow the girls for a minute? I need a quick word with them.”

He was with a client, but they were nearly finished. His car was in the car park and he said he would meet us there in five minutes. He told us we had better make our excuses and say goodbye to our friends, which we did. But I don’t think that we convinced them that we were just going home for lunch.

John didn’t say a word until we were in the car. Then he didn’t raise his voice; he never does. But he pointed out that we were under-age and could get into serious trouble, and our friends could get into trouble for buying us drinks, and that the owner could get in trouble for letting us in. One way and another, he let us know that there was a lot of trouble about.

As we drew up, the two mums were standing outside, talking seriously. They stopped as we got out of the car.

“Get in the house,” to Molly.

“Up to your room,” to me.

Angela sounded as cross as I have heard her.

And we were both marched into our respective houses.

I was allowed no time for excuses; well there wasn’t much I could say. And in less than sixty seconds from the car, I was enjoying a birds-eye view of the bedroom carpet, from a height of about ten inches. At least Miss Thwack’um left me the dignity of my knickers, but now they were quickly dispensed with and around my knees. There was no brave acceptance and stiff upper lip this time. Angela spanked me exactly as she would the twins, and I bawled and struggled just like a ten year old. When I was caned, I could mentally prepare myself for each stroke, but Angela’s smacks seemed like a never-ending blizzard, criss-crossing my bottom and upper thighs, setting the whole area on fire.

Eventually, eventually, at last, she slowed and stopped. Then one last tremendous whack! And: “Get up.”

I struggled to my feet. Eyes still fixed on the floor. Aunt Angela pointed to the corner.

“And you can stay there until I’m ready to see you again downstairs.”

Pulling my knickers back up, I buried my head into the corner as I heard her leave the room. I’m not sure how long she left me there. I suppose just fifteen or twenty minutes, but it seemed like for ever. Then I heard someone come in. It was Jane.

“You OK, Sally?”

“I guess.”

“Mum says you can come down now.”

“Is she still cross?”

Jane thought she had mostly calmed down. And as we walked downstairs together, Jane held my hand.

“She’s a hard smacker, isn’t she?”

I agreed she was, and we both smiled.

The rest of the day passed off normally and nothing more was said until the twins had gone to bed. Then John and Angela sat me down for a talk. They weren’t angry; they didn’t go on about my disobedience. That had already been dealt with by the spanking. It was really about putting others at risk. Molly, of course, had also been spanked, but the boys could have been in serious trouble if they were caught buying us drinks. I think Angela knew the main reason we went was because I wanted to see Charlie, a boy I had become friends with, but she didn’t say that.

Then I was sent to bed.

By then, my holiday was nearly over. I was flying home on Saturday.

I spent most of the remaining time with Molly and we played with the twins in the garden. On Friday evening I went out with the usual crowd, not to a bar, but to a cafe where they had a juke box. We had been told we could stay out til eleven, and I slipped away for a while with Charlie, before we all walked back together.

The whole family, plus Molly, came with me to the airport. There were extra presents in my rucksack for Gran and Dad, which seemed even fuller and heavier than when I arrived. Then, hugs and promises to write, and it was onto the plane. I was almost in tears.

Gran met me with the car and, by six o’clock, we were home. Of course, she wanted to know everything that had happened and said I had been so, so lucky to meet up with a family who offered to let me stay with them. I said it was to help baby-sit the twins. We then had a quick meal and, as I was tired, I went straight to bed.

Gran took the opportunity to empty out my bag and put everything in the washing machine. I had told her not too, as it was all clean from Angela’s, but she did anyway. She was surprised to find a pair of knickers she didn’t recognise. More so, to see they had a stencilled mark, ‘Juvenile Detention Centre’.

It took all my ingenuity, next morning, to come up with an explanation and, although I’m sure she didn’t believe me, she didn’t press the matter. Just relieved to get me safely back, I guess.

I did write, to the family, to Molly and to Charlie.

And the next summer, Molly, Charlie and three others came over to stay. They slept on the floor at Gran’s, then we all went camping by the sea. Rita also joined us. Gran ferried us to the site and we had a great time. Next year, I was at college and Angela found me a holiday job for the summer break, so I went back.

Now, we still visit, normally once a year, to see Charlie’s family. At the moment Charlie is playing in the garden with our kids, seven and nine. They will all be in, in a minute, wanting their tea.

The End

© Geraldine 2019