If Helen had been smarter, she might have realized that an exclusive foreign girls’ school with a tradition of Corporal Punishment and a male Deputy Head is not the best place to go tempting fate.

By Neville Moore

There had to be a way out of this. There just had to.

Helen Novak had just spent the last three minutes pacing about the dormitory like a caged animal, twisting her light blonde hair between her fingers in a crescendo of anxiety. Every so often she would pause and look around her, as if to reassure herself that everything – the furniture, the freshly cut flowers, the clothes slung carelessly over the backs of chairs, the various souvenirs of her absent room-mate, Sylvia, who had gone away for the weekend – was still in its place, unchanged, in spite of the bombshell that had just fallen out of the sky into the placid routine of her existence. Once only she had stopped abruptly, laughed nervously to herself, and muttered: “I’m dreaming this!” The sunlight through the window and the carefree song of birds outside seemed to agree; in such a peaceful and civilized world as this, schoolgirls – even those attending exclusive private boarding-cum-day schools in foreign countries, with dormitories daily cleaned by a flunky – just could not be subjected to cruel physical tortures hypocritically justified as ‘punishments’. It just didn’t happen. This was the twenty-first century, for God’s sake!

All right, it did happen. She had to admit that. She had seen one with her own eyes – not the punishment itself, but its shocking visible consequences. Only a few weeks after her father had been posted to this new Consular position, and she’d been sent, yet again, to a new school – another of these ‘creme de la crème’ affairs (yawn) for the daughters of wealthy expatriate businessmen, oil engineers and diplomats, an outpost of England, or at least of Western Europe, secreted in the leafy subtropical countryside out of harm’s way, complete with ridiculous uniform, absurd rules, and chic dormitories for those whose fathers were just too busy to ferry them out there every day – one of her first new friends, Jane, had been caught with a bottle of of some pestilential local brew in her games bag. The Deputy Head, Dr Alvarez, had promptly informed the demure, luckless Jane that her parents had signed, without her knowledge, a ‘Permission’ allowing school authorities the option of what he curtly termed ‘Corporal Punishment’. What had happened directly after that was something Jane, in her brief and embarrassed account, had preferred not to enlarge upon; however, she hadn’t been able to avoid revealing, while changing into her Games kit the next day, some quite alarming stripes that traversed her plump bottom horizontally and caused its owner to wince at the slightest touch. This important information, rapidly relayed through the changing room, had duly been absorbed by Helen, who decided that there was no way she’d ever be dumb enough to let something like that happen to her in what was certain to be a brief stay at this wretched banana-republic school.

And yet now, it looked as if that was precisely what was going to happen to her. Unless, that is, she found a way out of her predicament pretty damn quickly.

“Dad,” she’d yelled down the phone the night before. “You didn’t sign that Permission, did you?” Her father had affected not to know what she was talking about. “Oh, for Chrissakes, they’re going to cane me!” Of course he’d wanted to know why.

On being informed of the reason, he’d just laughed and said: “Well, perhaps it will do you some good, poppet. Did I tell you I was caned three times when I was at school?”

Helen had had to bite her tongue. “Yes, Dad, you’ve told me many times. But Daddy, for heaven’s sakes, I’m a girl!”

A chuckle. “Oh, I’m sure they’re well aware of that fact. Look, darling, I’ve got to go…” Click. And that had been that. Obviously, he’d signed “the Permission” – most likely the school had sold it to him as one of these Proud British Traditions he’d always been such a sucker for. So there was no objection she could make on that score. They had her father’s permission – which, in turn, meant that if she kicked up a stink about it, pointing out the obvious fact that what they were proposing to do to her was disproportionate and quite out of place in the modern age, she’d be rebelling against parental authority – an authority which, as far as the School was concerned, was not at all diminished by the fact she’d just turned eighteen, and was just three months away from picking up her International Baccalaureate. Eighteen, for heaven’s sake! This was all just too ridiculous.

Then there was the thorny question of who, and how. As far as she’d been able to gather, Jane’s ‘punishment’ had been carried out by the Deputy Head himself, in his office – a logical enough arrangement, since the Headmistress, Monica Salas, was a mere figurehead, almost a fiction, apparently occupying the position purely in order to satisfy government requirements that the titular head of the school had to be both a female and a national. Dr Alvarez, an enterprising half-Spaniard, educated in England, who’d emigrated to South America in his youth, was, to all practical intents and purposes, the most senior authority at Colegio Femenino Las Amazonas, having joined the school as a mere Science teacher and risen rapidly through the ranks by dint of ruthless efficiency.

Had there been any witnesses to Jane’s ordeal? Given her unwillingness to discuss it, Helen hadn’t dared ask, and right now, she couldn’t decide whether she was glad or alarmed that the person who was proposing to discipline her was a man. Vaguely, she supposed that this was to her advantage. He was bound to be gentler on her, and considerably less malicious, than a female would have been. Chivalry and all that. Not that the stripes on Jane’s bottom had looked all that chivalrous… Helen stopped short once again in her feverish pacing at the thought of those stripes. “No!” she said out loud. “They can’t do that to me! They can’t…”

There had to be a way out.

The words ‘seductive charm’ drifted into her mind. On a frantic impulse, Helen approached the mirror, wiped the tears from under her eyes and smoothed her hair. She’d have to fix her make-up, she thought, reflecting that this was one of the few saving graces of this school – the fact that, since the rules were not concocted by some bitter, repressed spinster with a pathological hatred of youth and beauty, as School Rules in her experience generally were, there were no explicit restrictions on the wearing of make-up. With its aid, she could make herself look quite a bit older, in spite of the idiotic uniform – a mature, sensible, well-bred woman in her mid twenties, the kind of creature no one in their right mind would dream of subjecting to a childish and humiliating ‘punishment’ of the sort proposed. Yes, this was the way to go. Be charming, be confident, act mature, and Dr Alvarez would surely see sense, and let her off with a reprimand, or some token penance.

Helen looked herself up and down in the mirror, noting – not for the first time that day – how the ghastly regulation uniform, half a size too small for her, insisted on clinging about her blossoming female contours. She wondered whether Dr Alvarez, in his capacity as a member of the male species, was vulnerable to any such forms of persuasion. Of course he pretended not to be. But that was part of his job, to feign not to notice that he was daily surrounded by some of the most strident incitements to reproductive activity that Nature could devise. She had often, in the past, been amused by the visible efforts of male teachers to divert their gaze from an inviting cleavage, a taut skirt, a coquettish sway of the hips or the crossing of a pair of exquisitely stockinged legs. This was, if she admitted it, part of the fun of being a teenage female. And – she thought with momentary complacency – it’s not as if I didn’t have my share of these weapons…

Weapons. The word suddenly struck her as a cruel irony, as she turned sideways on to the mirror and glanced at the insinuating curve of her tightly skirted rump. Since her early teens, a conspiracy of hormones had turned that part of her into an advertisement of her sex, something she could and did use –when the occasion presented itself – to tempt and to provoke, smug in the knowledge that she was all the while untouchable and out of bounds to all onlookers. Yet she also knew – or was it just a handful of half-remembered childhood experiences that had planted this in her mind? – that what she was advertising was a certain vulnerability, proper to her sex, a vulnerability which someone would sooner or later call her on. Her own father, an engineer more at home with girders and drill bits than with sculpted curves, had more than once crudely and uncharitably summed up the visual effect of his daughter’s expansive rear projection in a single word: smackable. She glanced at herself again. Yes, she was smackable all right. This, indeed, was a notion she had often toyed with mentally, and was wont to find darkly fascinating; one day, no doubt, perhaps quite soon, she would meet the kind of guy who any girl would be thrilled to have her bottom playfully smacked by… assuming, that is, that the smacking was done in the right spirit of affectionate remonstrance – and that it didn’t actually hurt. Well, it might hurt a little. She wouldn’t mind that. But what Dr Alvarez was proposing to do to her did not fit into these daydreams at all.

There had been nothing playful or affectionate about what he had inflicted on poor Jane, nor about the stern summons she had received that morning. “Miss Novak? I have a message from the Deputy Head. He wants to see you in his office at four o’clock sharp. You’d better not be late.”

She didn’t have to ask what it was about. She knew only too well that, by now, the news of her having been caught cheating in the maths exam would have been passed upward to the ‘appropriate authority’. Which meant that now, what she had always thought of as a weapon was about to become a target. This was not fair. There was nothing about this in the rules. Not the ones that counted, anyway.

She looked at her watch. Three thirty. There was just time to fix her appearance… and, in case the desperate plan to look prohibitively mature didn’t work, her clothes. She pulled open a drawer in the shared dressing-table and set to work quickly and nervously with eye shadow, mascara, powder, lipstick and hairbrush, wondering all the while what she could do about the two thin layers of clothing that separated the tender flesh of her seat from whatever diabolical medieval instrument the Deputy Head was proposing to visit upon it. Perhaps it might be a good idea to add a little concealed protection. An extra pair of knickers, perhaps? She thought back to the stripes she had glimpsed on Jane’s bottom. They were remarkably clean, precise and evenly spaced. Almost as if…

Helen tried to push the thought out of her mind, but it wouldn’t go away. No, she told herself, there was no way she could possibly be asked to bare herself, even partially. She wasn’t a ten-year-old girl, but a full-grown woman, with a woman’s inalienable right to – well, to her modesty, even if the word did sound a little old-fashioned these days. Asking her to pull away that skirt would transform what was already an extremely dubious method of “punishment” into out-and-out sexual abuse. It was unthinkable. Never mind what may or may not have happened to Jane – she knew her rights.

She crossed the room, yanked open another drawer, and rummaged through its contents quickly before pulling out a pair of tight-fitting shorts. If the worst came to the worst, they would have to do.

* * *

“Ah, Miss Novak. Come in.”

Helen paused at the doorway for a moment, for effect, then stepped fastidiously across the carpeted floor, sweeping her hair back with one hand in an ostentatious movement she judged would create the right impression of remote, icy sophistication. She came to rest in front of Dr Alvarez’ desk, and rather than hang her head in contrite shame as she was sure Jane must have done, opted to glance around the office in what was intended to be a calm, offhand manner, as if to form an opinion on the Deputy Head’s decorative talents. There were no canes, or other instruments of punishment, anywhere to be seen. Perhaps her worst fears had been, after all, unfounded.

“Looking for something, Miss Novak?”

“What? Oh, no, just – just admiring that picture.”

It depicted a red-coated hunter on horseback, with a pack of hounds, in a rustic style. A backward ten-year-old would have seen through the deception. What a way to start.

“Miss Novak, this is not an art exhibition. You have been summoned here for cheating in an exam. Before we come to the question of your punishment, I’d like to hear your version of events.”

Punishment. What a humiliating word that was.

“Of course. Er… may I sit down, Dr Alvarez?” Helen enquired sweetly, grasping the back of a chair and pulling it towards her.

“No, that won’t be necessary. Just tell me as briefly and simply as you can what happened.”

“Oh… all right. No sitting down,” Helen attempted a light, urbane laugh, and struck a pose. “Well, whatever. Yes, I’m afraid I was naughty, Dr Alvarez. I’m really terribly sorry about that. It was quite silly of me. Obviously it won’t happen again.”

“So you don’t wish to deny the charge of cheating?”

“No. And there was no one else involved. Like I said, I’m really sorry.”

The Deputy Head looked up at her with something that looked suspiciously like amusement. For the first time, his face struck her as somewhat handsome. Also, under the current circumstances, somewhat terrifying.

“Well, then it would appear there is little more to say. Since you’re a short-stay pupil at this school, I’ll spare you the customary lecture. You’re sorry, and it won’t happen again, you tell me. All that remains for us now is to make quite sure of that. As you may have heard, in this school we have our own methods for, um, inducing repentance in girls who’ve broken the rules, and as Deputy Head the duty of enforcing these methods naturally devolves on to me. So, Miss Novak, if you’d be good enough to step forward and bend over this desk…”

Helen began to shake, uncontrollably.

“Bend over? Er… I hope you’re not suggesting I have to be… to be beaten, or something?” She wanted to follow that with an incredulous laugh, but it wouldn’t come.

“Miss Novak, please let’s not waste time. I’m about to cane you, on the bottom – four strokes, which is standard for such offences as cheating in exams.”

“You can’t really be serious, Dr Alvarez. I’m sorry about cheating and all that, but I’m eighteen. I’m not a girl. I’m grown up.”

“Possibly. But our system assumes, and your behavior seems to demonstrate, that you are not yet grown up enough to be immune to the proven educational benefits of a short sharp shock. In any case, your father has settled the matter for us, by signing a form giving the school permission to punish you in accordance with long-standing tradition. Grown up or not, I’m afraid it’s still his call. So, Miss Novak, please let’s not waste any more time.”

“Can I see the form?”

Dr Alvarez, with a faint sigh, opened a drawer, rifled through a sheaf of papers, and pulled out a sheet which he handed to the absurdly painted girl standing, and trembling slightly, before him. On it she read the following:

I, …MARTIN K. NOVAK…, in my capacity as parent/legal guardian of …HELEN ELIZABETH NOVAK…, a pupil of the Colegio Femenino Las Amazonas, hereby authorize the School, in the person of its senior authorities and/or teaching staff members formally designated for the purpose, to administer appropriate corporal discipline to the above named pupil where this should be deemed useful for the purpose of correction, in accordance with the provisions of the School Rules (see esp. sections 13 and 19) and in conformity with any applicable provisions of current national legislation. Such discipline may include (please check desired options and specify any preferred limit):

Slipper on buttocks, clothed

Slipper on buttocks, partially or fully unclothed

Cane on hand or buttocks, clothed

Cane on hand or buttocks, partially or fully unclothed

Her father had marked all four options with an impatient, offhand scrawl, and signed the end of the form. This was just like him. He was not a man to bother his mind with fine distinctions in a matter (the discipline of a headstrong daughter) in which he didn’t consider himself a fully qualified expert. “I’m sure these people know what they’re about,” he would have muttered to himself upon signing. Yes. This was absolutely just like her dear pater. There was no escape there. It was even worse than she thought. Unclothed?

She took a step forward, handed the paper back to Dr Alvarez, and with a toss of the head, leaned over the desk, resting her hands on the edge. “All right then. I‘ve already said I’m sorry. Let’s get this silly business over with quickly.” Inwardly, she congratulated herself for the foresight implied in her invisible extra layer of underwear, and promised herself this was going to hurt hardly, if at all. Her main objective, now, was to keep her dignity. Dr Alvarez must not see her wince, or flinch. If that was what he hoped to see, he’d be disappointed.

The Deputy Head stood up. She saw the long, thin wooden stick in his hand. Where it had been hidden, she had no idea, but suddenly, there it was. She stared at it in horrified fascination. He walked slowly and deliberately round the desk until he was standing out of sight, behind her. She gave a slight start as she felt something pressed lightly against the centre of her bottom. What a weird situation, she thought. Anywhere else, she would have whirled round and slapped him in the face, as a matter of simple decorum. But here…

“Miss Novak, I’ve been very patient so far, but I will insist, from now on, that you follow the custom of addressing me as ‘sir’. Have you got that?”

“Yes, sir. Of course, sir.” The words, she reflected, seemed to come from someone else. Momentarily, she felt as if she was acting in a play.

“All right then. Elbows on the desk, please. Bottom right out.”

Helen sighed petulantly, then slowly slid herself down onto her elbows. She hoped and prayed that the tightness of the skirt over her wide buttocks would not reveal the precaution she had taken, in the form of telltale creases in the smooth surface she was presenting to him. Smooth surface? Oh yes – he would now, for sure, be enjoying the view, gloating over it, congratulating himself on it. What man wouldn’t? She could hardly blame him. If she was a man, in his position, she wouldn’t have let this little opportunity slip by, either. It must be pretty sexy being able to make eighteen-year-old girls bend over your desk on any dismal pretext. Especially if they were the sort of girls who, like herself, didn’t mind advertising what they had to offer in that department…

“Now stay very still.”

His tone was matter-of-fact, even blase. He sounded like a doctor about to administer an injection. The thing tapped twice, lazily, against her buttocks, then left them.

There was a brief sound of something ugly cleaving the air at speed, then the shocking sensation of that something slicing into her skirt. A second later, pain exploded into her nerves.

Instantly, it no longer mattered if she howled or not. She howled. Now, the world was different. Nothing which had mattered up to a moment ago mattered any more. To hell with dignity. All that mattered was this unbelievable pain, and how to stop it. She jerked herself up, and spun round, clutching her buttocks with both hands and screwing up her face in a grimace. Dr Alvarez stood calmly in front of her. He didn’t seem to realize what he had just done. After a moment, the pain subsided from unbearable to merely excruciating, and her eyes filled with tears. “You.. you…” she gasped, frantically massaging herself.

“Yes, Miss Novak?”

“You… hurt me!”

“Please say that again. Properly, this time.”

Helen was trying to stop her legs from caving in beneath her. Treading on the spot, she tried again. “You hurt me, sir.” Unwittingly, her face was now wearing an expression of utter astonishment.

“Yes, so it seems. That is the general idea. Please resume your previous position. There are still three more to come.”

“Please, sir. I can’t… I just can’t.”

“You can, girl, and you will. Now don’t make things worse for yourself. Resume your position, please.”

“Please… can’t you punish me another way? I’ll do anything…” On an impulse, she followed this up with a grotesque, half-hearted attempt at a suggestive smile.

“Turn round and bend over that desk immediately.”

“No, sir. I can’t. It’s too much. It’s not fair…”

“Would you like an alternative?”

“Yes, sir. Please.” Her heart leapt. A ray of hope at last?

“All right. It’s very simple. The alternative – the way out, so to speak – is simply for you to walk straight through that door. Then go to your locker, collect up all your books, and deposit those that have been loaned to you by the School with my secretary. I shall telephone your father and make arrangements to have you picked up and transported home. Naturally you will not be entered in the International Baccalaureate, at least not by this school. Your father can find another one for you if he so chooses.”

Still rubbing her smarting behind, Helen took all of this in. There was a silence.

“So if I don’t take three more, I’m out?”

“Exactly.”

Slowly, she turned again to face the desk. Dr Alvarez waited patiently as she blinked down at it, then bent over it, resting her weight once again on her elbows. There was a short silence. Again, she felt the tip of the cane resting against her buttocks, slightly lower than the last time.

“Sir?”

“Yes, Miss Novak?”

“Do you like doing this?”

“Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It depends on the girl, and the reason. In your case, assuredly yes.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s clearly what you need.”

Helen considered this. After a pause, she said softly: “Are you sure of that, sir?”

“Absolutely. Now stay perfectly still.”

She tossed her head. The cane left her again.

Another explosion of pain. Seconds later, once the worst had subsided, she realized that she had just made a terrible mistake. The word that had escaped her lips would have been very poorly chosen, if she had actually chosen it. She hadn’t. It had chosen itself.

What did you say?”

“I’m sorry, sir… I didn’t mean…”

“Get back over the desk.” Now, he sounded angry.

“Sir, I’m really sorry…” She obeyed the command with alacrity, in a desperate attempt to smother the implications of the word she had used. Suddenly, she felt the lower hem of her skirt slipping up her thighs. A protest, at this moment, was clearly warranted, but it just wouldn’t come.

“Oh, I see. More cheating.” He had seen the games shorts. “Well, I’ll be kind on this occasion. I should really start over, from the beginning, but we’ll stick to just two more, as you are now, minus the shorts of course. I take it there is another layer of clothing beneath?”

“Yes, sir. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

“All right. Go behind that screen over there and leave the shorts on the chair. Come back here when you’re ready. Would you like me to call in Miss Velasco as a witness?”

Miss Velasco was his secretary.

The last thing Helen wanted right now was a local woman gloating over her predicament, memorizing her yelps and squeals in order to share them with the rest of the administrative staff.

“No, sir.” The sound of her own words informed her she was in tears. She’d hardly noticed.

“All right. Go to it, then – I haven’t got all day.” Judging by the patient tone of the words, his anger seemed to have subsided as suddenly as it had appeared. She limped across the room to the screen, stood behind it and gingerly removed her shorts. The cold air on her flesh seemed to help, a little. She slid her fingers inside her knickers and felt the ridges of tender raised flesh that the cane had etched on her swelling buttocks. She hesitated a moment, then carefully eased down the lower hems of her knickers so as to more or less cover the target area. It was a good thing the regulation item was so roomy. Then she smoothed down her skirt. Perhaps she had misunderstood, and she would be allowed that protection as well.

She limped back, and bent over the desk once more, wondering now if Dr Alvarez had the least notion of the degree of pain he was inflicting. She felt she deserved more sympathy than she was getting. Submitting to this, and silently putting up with the pain that still scorched her, was the hardest thing she’d done in her life.

“Dear oh dear,” Dr Alvarez sighed. The skirt was roughly yanked over the small of her back. “That’s better. Well, let’s get this over with.” Now, there was a cold, hard edge to his tone. She had time to wonder why it mattered so much to her how his voice sounded.

The now-familiar whipping noise announced another moment of utter calamity. She let out a muffled, high-pitched scream. She couldn’t believe that anyone but a monster could knowingly inflict such pain. Nothing she had ever done in her life could possibly make her deserve this. How many girls had been tormented in this way, in this very place? Why did no one intervene to end this barbarity?

“Miss Novak, get back down at once. Hands where they were.”

“Please sir, please Dr Alvarez, I’m really, really sorry… Oh God. Please, no more.”

One more.”

Mindful of the word she had earlier used, and not wanting to be reminded of it, she slowly slid her elbows across the table. “Please,” she whimpered again as her skirt was pulled back up.

“Miss Novak, I’m getting a little tired of your theatricals. This is just a routine punishment, nothing more or less.”

“It’s not routine for me.” She didn’t intend her tone to sound so plaintive, even accusing.

Dr Alvarez chuckled. “So I see. Well, let’s hope it doesn’t become so. Now, nice and still.”

There was a long pause, and absolute silence. Helen closed her eyes, and opened them again. Nothing seemed to be happening. Where was Dr Alvarez? Suddenly, an object appeared in front of her face on the desk. It was a large, thick book with dark blue padded binding. It looked like an old-fashioned office diary. Dr Alvarez was beside her, leaning over, opening the book.

“You may sign this now, if you like. It’ll allow you to be out of here more quickly when we’ve finished. It’s the punishment book. Again, standard procedure.”

Helen raised herself up a little, leaning to one side in order to free her right arm. She took the pen offered to her, then glanced over the half-blank page. Natalie Harcourt, 5. Jennifer Scofield, 4. Patricia Simpson, 4. Freda Muller, 3. Laura Thompson, 7 (poor Laura!). Amanda Wainwright, 6. Maria Yepes… Olga Torres… Amanda Wainwright – again?! – … Francesca Benedetti… Samantha Ferenczi… Heather Collins… Chelsea Alexis Lehmann… Jane Turner… most of the names, excepting the last, were unknown to her, but there were a few surprises. Sam Ferenczi, for example, was the smiling, sweet-tempered brunette who had tried to encourage her to join the Drama Club on her second day in the school. She didn’t look at all like the sort of girl who would fall foul of the Authorities, yet here was the evidence that on at least one occasion she’d done something to merit having her pretty teenage backside whacked three times. Well, although her signature on the page looked a trifle frantic, the experience didn’t seem to have traumatized her in the long term. Perhaps, after all, she, Helen, had been a bit too melodramatic. On the evidence in front of her, she was now a member of a rather less than exclusive club. She saw her name already written in the last line, and signed next to it. “Shall I write four here?”

“Unless you want more.”

“No, sir, to be honest I really don’t.”

“Four then.” His voice was smiling.

She scribbled, then pushed the book away.

“Ready?”

Obeying a curious impulse, she wiggled her hips. It was as if, after seeing all those girls’ names, she felt she was in competition with them. The Most Fondly Remembered Rear, or something of the sort. It was an odd feeling. In spite of the intense, awful, burning pain, she was almost light-headed. She suddenly felt as if she were an actress coming to the end of an audition, which had, in spite of one ghastly moment, gone fairly well on the whole. She felt, in spite of everything, desirable. No: the word was desired.

He wanted her. Suddenly she felt sure of it. That was really what all this was about. Somehow, he had made her cheat in that exam. He was punishing her, and all those other girls, for the desire they aroused in him. Well then, she was the winner. Because no matter what the ‘Permission’ covered, it didn’t allow him to have her in the way he really wanted. By making herself desirable, it was she who was punishing him.

“Miss Novak, will you please keep still.”

“Sorry sir. My boyfriend likes me doing that.” She grinned inwardly at her own cheek.

Dr Alvarez’ reply was not slow coming.

“Eeeeeh!” He had gone for the most sensitive – and the only totally unprotected –Antarctic latitude of the paired hemispheres before him, and laid into it with every ounce of strength he could muster. Her knees buckled under her, and she sank almost to the floor, clinging to the side of the desk with one hand for support, while the other frantically massaged the skin around the target zone. The yelp had morphed into a series of staccato sobs.

“That’s it, Miss Novak. You may go to your room now. I trust you’ve learned some sort of a lesson about what happens to cheats. Now, and at every stage in life.”

Slowly, Helen Novak straightened herself up. With her hands still busy behind her, she looked him straight in the eye, through the tears. Choking back the sobs, she said at length: “I’ve learned something.” Gingerly, she slid the lower hem of her skirt down her thighs, straightened herself, and caught his eye. She managed a half-smile. “Thank you, Dr Alvarez. You won’t see me here again.”

She shuffled to the chair by the Japanese screen and picked up her shorts. “Or these.” She paused for a moment, took a deep breath, then walked stiffly towards the door. “Goodbye,” she said softly, with the handle in her hand. As she left, she managed a suggestive wiggle. It wasn’t quite up to her usual standard, but it would have to do – for now.

There’d be time, over her remaining two months at that school, to get her revenge. She already knew how to. She turned towards the closed door. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

* * *

An hour had gone by, and the shadows were lengthening, but Dr John Alvarez did not stir from his seated position in front of the oak desk, where he rested his head on his hands and stared idly at the open ‘punishment book’ before him.

She’d called him a bastard. Granted, it had been barely more than a sudden exclamation of pain, and she’d apologized immediately, but, well, it mattered. And it was more than obvious that she knew. All right, she didn’t know how carefully, over the years, he’d established and consolidated this ‘school tradition’, the lengths he’d gone to in order to conceal the fact that the ‘tradition’ was of his own instituting, or the pains he’d taken to provide himself with a discreet, compliant staff, or the elaborate network of spies he had built up to ensure that not a single breach of the rules went unobserved and unpunished. But she knew, she had felt, the tension in that room at the moment she had bent over the desk, accommodating herself, as all the others had, to his fantasy. And as always, he’d taken it as far as he dared, but not as far as he secretly longed to. She knew that as well. She had seen it in his eyes. Or possibly lower down. He was, he realized, getting careless.

How much longer could this go on? Sooner or later, something was bound to go wrong. Yes, he’d always covered himself very well, obtaining parental permission for punishments that, over the years, had been set out with increasing candour, on the constantly evolving Permission Form. But precisely because it had all been so surprisingly easy, so far, the temptation to go a step further was always there. This afternoon, with Helen, it had taken all his reserves of self-control not to let his hands tremblingly act out his lust once the skirt had finally gone over her back. And she’d noticed, and provoked him, and silently egged him on. She’d wanted him to betray himself, to disgrace himself. These girls were getting too old, too quickly.

He felt as if a destiny, written in his blood or in his genes, was being played out in him. He felt as if his own unmanageable lusts were dragging him, kicking and struggling, before a dimly glimpsed firing squad.

There had to be a way out of this, he thought to himself, trying to banish from his mind the image of Helen’s awaiting rear, and the defiant toss of her long blonde hair, in that one, final, unforgettable moment when they had both understood each other perfectly. There had to be a way out. There just had to…

The End