A woman is in the wrong job to be caught out. By a new writer to us.
By Sally Cavendish
When is a white lie not a white lie? It was not a question to which Celia Church had given much thought.
She knew that, when she told her boss she would be back late after lunch because she had a two-thirty dental appointment, she was being economical with the truth. There was no such appointment. She just wanted to have a leisurely pub lunch with an old school friend. But she did not think she was doing anything particularly heinous. She could always make up the time later.
August was a slack time of year, and her boss, Mrs Crosthwaite, was the understanding type. The two women, both in their early forties, got on very well.
“Two-thirty?” Said Mrs Crosthwaite, when her secretary told her about her dental appointment. “Don’t you mean tooth-hurty?” And they had chuckled at the old joke.
So it was just bad luck that, at exactly 2.45, when Celia was emerging from the pub with her friend, Mrs Crosthwaite, unseen by Celia, should have been driving past in her BMW.
And it was very bad luck indeed that Mrs Crosthwaite, although certainly the understanding type and a considerate boss, was also the headmistress of a girls’ school with a reputation for strict discipline; a school where bad behaviour was met with swift, retributive justice, administered by the headmistress in person.
* * *
“How was the dentist?” Mrs Crosthwaite called out when Celia reappeared shortly after three o’clock.
The secretary occupied a small ante-room next to the headmistress’s study, but the door connecting the two rooms was open most of the time.
“Not too bad, thank you. One small filling.”
“You poor thing. That must have hurt.”
“Only for a short time.”
“It was agony for a bit, but I coped pretty well after that.”
“You must have a high pain threshold.”
“I suppose…” Celia hesitated and looked up from her desk to see Mrs Crosthwaite standing in the doorway. She was smiling, but there was something slightly odd about her manner, something Celia found hard to pin down. And why the reference to pain thresholds? She could feel the first small pricklings of anxiety.
“Luckily, I don’t have to visit the dentist too often,” she said weakly.
There was a short, tense silence during which Celia was conscious of her boss looking at her intently. Then came the question which, subconsciously, she had been dreading from the moment she returned to the office.
“Wouldn’t it better to tell me the truth?”
* * *
Five minutes later, the atmosphere between the two women could only be called strained. Celia had owned up about the dental appointment, and apologised profusely, but Mrs Crosthwaite was conspicuously unforgiving.
“I have never tolerated lying at this school and I do not intend to start now,” she said, in her frostiest voice. “If one of my pupils lied to me like that, you know what would happen to them as well as I do. It is a category one offence, for which the punishment is… Yes, Celia?”
“Six of the best, Mrs Crosthwaite.”
“With the cane, Mrs Crosthwaite.”
There was another menacing pause before the headmistress spoke again.
“Of course, I have no authority to administer corporal punishment to my staff. I can only suspend, fine or, in extreme cases, sack them. And, frankly, Celia, I am so angry with you that I am tempted to sack you on the spot. An employee who tells lies simply cannot be trusted. However, as this is your first offence and as you have, up to now, been an excellent secretary, I will offer you a choice of punishments. The sack or…”
Beads of sweats formed on Celia’s forehead as Mrs Crosthwaite once more paused theatrically.
“Twelve of the best.”
“You heard me, Celia. You are a grown woman, not a girl, so you must expect a more severe punishment.”
Fully a minute passed before Celia, trembling like a leaf, made her decision.
“I will take the caning, thank you.”
“Good. I think you know the drill?”
Unfortunately for Celia, she knew the drill all too well, having been called to witness a number of canings over the years. Without waiting to be told, she took off her shoes, removed her trousers, folded them and put them on the chair next to the door. Then she stepped slowly forward and bent across the headmistress’s desk, her bottom protected by a pair of white cotton panties. Mrs Crosthwaite, meanwhile, shut the door of the study and opened the cupboard, from which she drew her senior cane; three feet of yellowing rattan. The stage was set.
“This is going to hurt a good deal,” Mrs Crosthwaite said, after a couple of brisk practice strokes. “But it’s your own silly fault, Celia. You’ve lied to me and you need to realise that lying has severe consequences. Prepare to receive your caning.”
Miserably, in the old familiar ritual, Celia peeled down her panties to expose her curvaceous, milky white bottom. It was an axiom of Mrs Crosthwaite’s that canings had to be ‘proper’ canings, i.e. administered on the bare bottom, with the shame, so to speak, augmenting the pain.
Not that poor Celia had time to dwell on the shame. It was the pain that was uppermost in her mind as, after a slight pause and a sudden swish, the rattan found its target. Bloody hell! It felt as if someone had taken a branding iron to her backside. She only just managed not to let out a loud yelp of discomfort.
Mrs Crosthwaite, as was her wont, paused to inspect her handiwork. Her preferred method when administering a caning was to start high and end low, working her way down the proffered bottom to the crease at the top of the thighs, the most sensitive and, therefore, the most painful area. But she also liked to achieve a horizontal symmetry, with the stripes of the cane extending equally across both buttocks. She had certainly made a good start with Celia. The familiar red ‘tramlines’ of a classic school caning were inch-perfect. She nodded approvingly, raised the rattan again and brought it lashing down.
How often had this happened? The miscreant taking the first few strokes bravely, then breaking down and begging for mercy? It never worked. Mrs Crosthwaite simply said to Celia what she had said to generations of schoolgirls.
“If I hear ONE more word out of you, young lady, I will start the punishment again. You will stay in position until I have finished. You will not move. You will not make a sound. Do I make myself CLEAR?”
It was like the bark of a regimental sergeant-major on the parade ground. And it did the trick. For a brief moment, it looked as if Celia was in such physical distress that she would not be able to stay still. But with nothing to do but grit her teeth, if she did not want to receive extra strokes, she gritted them.
And less than two minutes later, the twelfth and final and most savage stroke of the rattan was finding its target.
And less than two minutes after that, the chastened secretary had hobbled out of the headmistress’s study, her striped bottom throbbing like hell under her trousers, her eyes damp with tears and her head still spinning.
One stupid, stupid lie. And twelve stripes that, though she did not yet know it, would still be visible on her bottom in a week’s time.
It had not been a good day in the office. Or, at least, not for Celia.
For Mrs Crosthwaite, of course, a martinet with the mind-set of a martinet, it had been very heaven.
© Sally Cavendish 2016