A girl hurts her friend

By Carole Hutchison

At 2.00 pm I’m approaching the school secretary’s office. As I near the door, I stop and look up and down the corridor. Two younger girls are about to enter a classroom. I wait for them to go in and then the corridor is clear. No one can see me now. I tap gently on the secretary’s door and push it open. Mrs Hastings looks up from behind her computer screen and smiles.

“Can I help you?”

“I’m Tara Kennedy. I have to see Miss Wainwright at two o’clock.”

Mrs Hastings taps a few keys and reads something that appears on her screen. Her face drops.

“One moment, Tara. I’ll see if Miss Wainwright is ready for you.”

She presses a button on an old intercom.

“Yes, Jane?” The response is scratchy, in keeping with the age of the device.

“Tara Kennedy is here for her two o’clock appointment, headmistress.”

“Give me two minutes then bring her in, please Jane.”

Mrs Hastings looks towards me and smiles. This time, the smile is not so much welcoming as nervous and, maybe, just a little sympathetic?

I can understand that. I’m nervous too. I’m expecting to be caned. It’s not certain because I have a pretty good record here at this school. I came here when I was eleven and I’m now sixteen and in the tenth year. I might be suspended for a week, or if I’m very lucky it might just be a couple of one-hour detentions. But I think I’m going to be caned.

The two minutes pass quickly, too quickly, and Mrs Hastings gets up from her desk. She avoids eye contact with me as she goes to the connecting door and knocks. We both hear Miss Wainwright call, “Enter,” and Mrs Hastings opens the door. She holds it open for me to go through.

“Ah, Tara,” Miss Wainwright acknowledges as her hand invites me to stand in front of her desk. “The report I have tells me you were in the shower room after a session in the gym and were flicking your towel at the bottoms of several of your friends. Is that correct?”

My mind flashes back to this morning, just after our gym lesson. We were just having fun, or at least I was.

“Yes, miss.”

“Then, in trying to avoid being slapped on the backside by your wet towel, one of the girls slipped and fell to the floor. In so doing, she suffered a bruised bottom. Is that correct, Tara?”

“Yes, miss.”

“Why do you think we have a rule that prohibits horse-play in the shower area, Tara?”

“To avoid accidents like that, miss.”

“Correct, Tara!”

Miss Wentworth has grey eyes, and at this moment they’re aimed right at me and making me even more nervous.

“Is there anything you’d like to say in your defence, Tara?”

I swallow. “It was just a bit of fun, miss. I didn’t mean Angela any harm. She’s a good friend of mine.”

Miss Wentworth seems to be mulling over what I said. Those grey eyes still look directly into mine. Her facial expression gives nothing away.

“I’m sure you didn’t, Tara,” Miss Wentworth finally answers. “And Angela herself confirms she views the matter as a simple accident.”

My mind again goes back to earlier in the day when I helped pick Angela up after she’d fallen. I repeated how sorry I was over and over, while Angela smiled ruefully and rubbed her naked bottom. Miss Smith, our gym mistress, had come rushing in when she heard poor Angela fall to the floor with a bang, and she checked Angela over for any injuries. By then bruises were starting to show.

“How on earth did this happen?” Miss Smith had demanded, looking directly at me.

All the other girls were now in the shower room or stood at the doorway, and they were all looking for me to own up. I had no choice, so I simply explained I was flicking my towel at Angela for a bit of fun. Our old gym teacher would have simple fetched her old plimsoll and had me bend over and touch my toes, then she’d have bruised my bum, just like Angela’s, with half a dozen whacks. Unfortunately, Miss Smith is the new breed of teacher who doesn’t believe in that sort of thing. Perhaps she thinks it makes her more popular. It doesn’t.

As my head returns to the present, I see Miss Wentworth is still looking at me.

“Tara, you broke the rule about no horse-play in the changing rooms and showers, and someone got hurt. This is a serious matter, although I accept no harm was intended. You will have to be punished, despite your previous exemplary record.”

I nod slowly. I was never going to be let off with a reprimand. That would have been too much to hope for.

“I’m considering either a period of suspension or the cane.”

I nod again, and Miss Wentworth watches me. Does she want me to choose? I don’t say anything. Suspension would get me a few days off from school, and that could be quite fun, but I like being at school with my friends, and then I’d have a fair bit of work to catch up on. I’ve never been caned, and it sounds awful.

“Perhaps if I were to cane you across your backside, it would be a kind of poetic justice?”

Miss Wentworth’s steely grey eyes now have a hint of twinkle, or am I fooling myself? Canings normally consist of three or six strokes. Three strokes are usually given across the palm of a girl’s non-writing hand. Six strokes are almost invariably given across the bottom. I’m not sure how hard-and-fast these guidelines are.

I don’t respond.

“No reply, Tara? Very well, I will cane you. Now, do you want me to inform your mother first?”

Oh god, I was hoping to keep this a secret from my mum. My heart is thumping, but my head is still working.

“No, miss.”

Miss Wentworth hasn’t actually stated whether it’s my hand or my bottom that is going to suffer, although I feel there’s little doubt.

“Tara, because you had no malice towards Angela, I’m going to restrict your punishment to just four strokes, which I’m sure will be enough to give you a clear warning against this sort of behaviour. In other circumstances, I might give you a choice between receiving them across your hand or across your backside, but in this case it seems just, well, appropriate for you to have them across your bottom. Do you agree?”

This is psychological torture! Why can’t she say, so I just have to do as I’m told? Of course, I see the logic. I’ve given Angela a sore bottom, so I should have mine made sore too.

Do I really want to hold my hand out and watch it being hit? Do I have that level of courage? Usually, no. I’m a scaredy-cat. But then, I like to sit comfortably too.

“Yes, miss,” I reply with a hint of a sigh. Perhaps Angela will feel it evens things up with us, although knowing Angela she would never feel any malice towards me.

“Across your bottom?” Miss Wentworth is making me say it.

“Yes, miss.”

“Good, four strokes across your bottom it will be. Jane, would you do the honours?”

Oh god! I know what that means.

While Miss Wentworth gets up and walks over to a tall cupboard, Mrs Hastings leads me in the opposite direction to where there are three armchairs grouped around a circular coffee table.

“You’ll need to remove your blazer, skirt and tights, Tara,” Mrs Hastings advises me. “Put your things over the arm of this chair.” She pats the back of the nearest chair to the headmistress’s desk.

I’d heard rumours, and this proves they were true.

I slowly peel off my navy-blue blazer, fold it and place it across the arm of the chair. Then I kick my shoes off, bend over and put them to one side. I’m wearing black tights, and I slip my hands up my skirt so I can pull them down. I almost fall over as I step out of them, and Mrs Hastings grabs hold of my arm to steady me. I’m wearing a grey pleated skirt that fastens at the back, but I’m starting to shake and I find the button and zip difficult to undo. Mrs Hastings does it for me, and my skirt falls to around my ankles. She holds me steady as I step out of the skirt, bend over and pick it up. I manage to fold it roughly and add it to the little pile of clothing on the arm of the chair.

“Ready?” Mrs Hastings asks.

I run my hands over the seat of my brief navy-blue knickers. There are no creases, but I tug them down a little as I try to cover as much of my bottom as I can.

“I guess so,” I reply, somewhat breathlessly.

Mrs Hastings begins to steer me back towards the desk, where Miss Wentworth is now standing in front of it, flexing a thin cane between her hands. It looks to be about two feet long and it’s pencil thin.

‘That can’t do too much harm, can it?’ I ask myself.

“Bend over the desk, Tara,” Miss Wentworth tells me. “Get right down and rest your forearms on the surface.”

I don’t hesitate. I’m scared, and I know if I stop and think it will just make it harder for myself. I position myself facing the desk and immediately bend over. My forearms are flat on the polished top of the desk and the left side of my face is also touching the desk. I smell wax polish and I’m conscious of my quite well-rounded bottom sticking out. I somehow want to make it easy for Miss Wentworth to hit right on my bottom. Do I think that will make it less painful somehow? I don’t know. It just seems the thing to do.

“Hold that position, Tara,” Miss Wentworth says. Her voice is a little quieter now.

I can’t see her. She is standing behind me and to my left, whereas my face is pointing towards the right. I look back and see Mrs Hastings looking at my bottom. I feel the cane tapping the seat of my navy-blue knickers. Pain must be imminent!

“Uuuhhnn!” I wasn’t wrong! The cane slaps hard across my bottom and the rush of pain instantly brings tears to my eyes.

Just as the shock seems to ebb away, another stroke slams into my backside and the sting bites me again. I’m ready for it and I don’t cry out. But it really, really, smarts!

Before I can think too much about it, another stroke whips across both buttocks and the pain intensifies. My whole bottom feels very sore now.

Rapidly, the fourth stroke lashes across my bottom. All the painful sensations are repeated, and I feel tears rolling down my face. Mrs Hastings is still looking at my bottom. Her expression is quite bland, so I don’t have a clue what she’s thinking.

“That’s it, Tara.” The voice comes from behind. It’s Miss Wentworth. “Stand up when you’re ready.” I can’t tell what she’s feeling either.

I push myself up from the desk, but my arms are weak and my legs are quivering too. No one rushes forward to help me, so I hold onto the front edge of the desk.

“Not at all pleasant, is it Tara?” Miss Wentworth asks.

“No, miss,” I gasp rather breathlessly as I cup both hands around my bottom and start rubbing gently. I can feel ridges across both buttocks.

“I feel it had to be done, Tara.”

“Yes, miss.”

She was right. I was an idiot for messing around on a slippery shower room floor, and I’d injured a good friend. I had to be punished, and a detention or suspension would not have been the memorable penalty I needed. A smacked bottom fitted rather aptly.

“Let’s get you dressed,” Mrs Hastings suggests, and she leads me back to the armchair where my clothes are.

My whole bottom is sore and I’m still unsteady on my feet. Mrs Hastings helps me put my tights back on, and then my skirt. She holds my blazer for me while I thread my arms into the sleeves, and then helps me on with my shoes.

“Off you go, Tara,” Mrs Wentworth tells me. “Learn your lesson and don’t do anything that silly again.”

“Thank you, miss,” I say as Mrs Hastings opens the door for me to leave. She ushers me through her outer office and into the corridor before closing the door behind me.

On my own now, I decide to head for the girls’ toilets. The first lesson of the afternoon will almost be over, so there’s no point in going straight there. Inside the toilets, I quickly wash my face and dry it on paper towels. Just then, the door is pushed open.

“Tara! Are you okay? I guessed I’d find you here.”

I look round. It’s Angela.

“I managed to leave class a bit early. I told Mrs Smith I needed the toilet,” she says. “What did you get?”

“The cane. Four strokes.” I try to smile, but I’m having trouble stopping the tears.

Angela immediately looks at my hand while I’m still dabbing my eyes with a paper towel.

“No, got my bum whacked.”

“Oh.” She looks down.

“A bit fair, given what I did to you,” I say.

Angela smiles.

The End

© Carole Hutchison 2022