A falsehood leads to a strange situation

By Jane Fairweather

Penny walked cautiously up to the door of the Senior Girls’ toilets, aware of voices on the other side of the door and wondering who was there. She always did this, she was always aware that she was still an outsider in this school, even after nearly four years. The other girls had been together from the first year, and even in the rarefied heights of the Sixth Form it seemed to make a difference. Normally someone with her record of steady hard work, who had never been in any trouble worth mentioning, would have been on Miss Johnson’s list for prefect, but somehow it had not happened. Perhaps worse Rachel Simpkins and her crony Madge Doolittle, who had always been rather less than her friends, had made the list, and Penny scented danger, danger somehow she could not put into words.

“If you are really being bullied, I am sure that Miss Johnson will deal with it, even in the Sixth Form, though I do find it most unlikely.” Her mother had said, half irritably, at Christmas, hearing Penny go on about the new prefect appointments.

And of course Mother was half right. Beyond some schoolgirl bitchiness, nothing had ever actually happened. And yet there was always this feeling that something might happen, and now Penny’s enemies were prefects she felt even more nervous. It would help, she kept telling herself, if only she could make a friend, but somehow, though there were girls that she could pass the time of day with, the truth was she had never had a friend at this school. Everyone here was sports crazy, and she was chiefly interested in doing English at college, and perhaps teaching it, and that had got her labelled as a swot very early on.

Anyway Penny resolutely told herself that she had to go to the loo, and this nonsense about something that might happen on the other side of that door had to stop. She resolutely adjusted her satchel, which was slipping off her shoulder, and walked in. To her annoyance there was a very silly little group of Fourth Formers, who were sharing the remains of a cigarette between them. Strictly they should not have been in the Senior Girls toilets at all and smoking was not allowed, full stop.  Penny decided that if she had been made a prefect she would have sent them for a taste of Miss Johnson’s slipper and not felt the slightest guilt about it. However, she was not a prefect, it was not her business, and she prepared to brush past them and go into a cubicle.

“Hi Egghead, want a whiff?” A silly blond haired girl with pigtails and freckles was demanding.

Penny felt real irritation at being called by her much loathed nickname, especially by a junior, but she tried to step past the gaggle of silly Fourth Formers and ignore it. At just that moment the door opened and the girl thrust the cigarette into Penny’s satchel. She could smell the burning and wondered what to do.

“Well if it isn’t Jane Mitchell and her crowd from the Fourth in the Senior Girls’ loos, where no-one, absolutely no-one below the Five Uppers is allowed!” Said the voice of Rachel Simpkins.

“And smoking too!” Added Madge Doolittle. “I should think that’s the Head’s after Assembly queue, tomorrow morning, wouldn‘t you Rachel?”

“Oh I should think there are going to be some very hot bottoms indeed, even hotter than last time. Sin has its price. Now ladies, if we could have your names and forms please.”

“But she gave us the cigarette and smoked it with us.”

Penny thought the girl with the pigtails was clutching at straws and even Rachel Simpkins was not going to be silly enough to believe this.

“Egghead, or whatever her name is, put it in her satchel. I saw her do it.”

“Show me your satchel Penny; I am sure she is lying. The Head will think that is worth a few extra with the slipper for Miss Mitchell, trying to incriminate an Upper Sixth Former.”

“Oh sugar!” Said Madge Doolittle. “Looks as if Jane is telling the truth, Rachel. They will all have to go to the Head tomorrow morning.”

“She pushed it in my satchel when you came through the door. I certainly did not give it her.”

“Told you so!” Crowed Jane Mitchell.

“Do I really have to go to the Head too?”

“I am afraid so. You know the rules, Penny. Smoking in the Sixth Form is a caning offence; and as to giving junior girls a cigarette, that is dreadful. You are for the high jump my girl. Now Madge, have you got the notebook? Now, your names and forms please ladies, ALL of you. And no sneaking off, Penny, even if you are an Upper Sixth Former.”

Penny listened, bewildered, as the four younger girls gave their full names and listed the forms that they were members of; and then were allowed to go. It was very like being arrested, Penny decided, and she felt utterly humiliated.

“Now you, Penny. I am really surprised at you.”

There was an air of quiet satisfaction in Rachel Simpkins’ voice, as if she had always known that there must a moral weakness somewhere in Penny.

“We could just let Egghead go. She is Upper Sixth and there is a fair chance she is telling the truth. It will be a terrible black mark against her if she gets whacked in the Upper Sixth. Besides, it will be the cane and that really hurts, simply because she‘s Sixth Form. She always canes the Sixth, when she punishes them at all. You know what Miss Johnson is like.”

“Oh for goodness sake, Madge! Our dear Egghead is obviously lying. Now, your full name and form, Egghead.”

Penny scowled. “I do not remember I have ever given you permission to call me anything other than Penny, have I Rachel? And I most certainly did not give them that cigarette. For goodness sake, why will you not believe me rather than those silly girls? They put it in my satchel.”

“If you are innocent then the Head will sort it out, no doubt. Now your full name,  and your form, please Penny.” Said Madge, trying to sound reasonable.

“Oh god, I am going to be read out in Assembly, aren’t I!”

“Yes, you are, Egghead. Now give Madge your name and form, please, or I will add defiance to your crimes and that should get you expelled.”

“Penelope Virginia Augusta Smith.”

There was a moment of incredulous giggling from the two prefects. Oh why had her parents chosen such stupid names? Up to this point she had managed to keep them secret.

“And your form?”

“You know darn well it is Upper Sixth Arts.”

“Oh well, Penelope Virginia Augusta Smith of Upper Sixth Arts, we are reporting you to the Headmistress for smoking, for providing cigarettes to other girls and for insolence to prefects. Assuming Miss Johnson agrees, you will have your name read out in Assembly tomorrow and you will have your punishment straight after. All right, Egghead, you can go.”

Penny did her best to make a dignified exit, but it was very hard to do. It did not help that the two prefects were giggling uncontrollably.

When Penny had gone, Rachel stopped giggling and observed: “Did you see her face when I said she would have her silly name read out? She will never live that down, and as for getting the cane, that will never be forgotten. It is so shameful for an Upper Sixth Former. But who cares when she is such a silly cow.”

“She has probably suffered enough already. Couldn’t we just forget to hand the report in and let her have a bad night till she finds out it is not happening after all?”

“Why spoil the fun. She deserves a whacking, and she is going to get it.”

“I suppose so, but I am just not sure it is quite fair. Still I suppose if you are so sure she really gave them the cigarette then she deserves it and we ought to report her.”

*     *     *     *     *

Penny woke, if that was the word, for she had endured a night of suddenly waking up with tears in her eyes. One of the few plusses of the situations was that she had a single study, so there was no need to explain her constant bursting into tears. No doubt she would lose the very real privilege of a single study. She wondered what irritating creature she would find herself sharing with, and who would get her study, which she was rather fond of.

And what would happen when she was caned? Was it on your hands or your bottom? She vaguely knew girls usually got it on their hands. Either way she was not going to make a fool of herself. She resolutely got out of bed and practiced saying: “Hold out your hands,” as if someone else was saying it, and then sticking her hands out. This must really hurt, she decided, imagining the cane swishing down.

After that, she turned the chair of her desk round and said: “Bend over and hold the seat of the chair,” which everyone in the school knew was what happened when you got the slipper and presumably would be the same with the cane. Your knickers must tighten, mustn’t they? Her pyjama bottoms, in fact, stayed slack, so she slipped on the previous day‘s knickers and decided that they stretched horribly tight and would give alarmingly little protection.

Then, very shakily, she washed and dressed, taking care to put on her thickest knickers, not that they were that thick. She wondered if she dared put some paper or blotting paper down and decided it would be too obvious, though she knew her brother had got away with it, but he must have had flannels and pants on which presumably gave that little bit more concealment. Anyway with luck it was going to be her hands, if luck was the word. She remembered her grandmother saying that you were lucky to hold a pen after a caning on your hands. Still there was prep to be done and she was glad to have something to do.

She went down to breakfast slightly late. You always sat at the same table all the time you were in the school. Penny’s was headed by the kindly and elderly Miss Holmes, who had taught her French since she had come to the school in the last term of the Fourth Form. For the rest, there was a selection of girls from the whole age range of the school. Annie Montgomery was the only other Sixth Former, and she was Lower Sixth. Penny had the distinct  feeling throughout the meal that everyone was studiously avoiding the fact that she was in such hot water, which she felt was rather kind. She wondered if it was Miss Holmes’ doing, though she also felt as if she was being abandoned to her punishment. She would not have minded a little bit of sympathy.

As they got up to clear the tables from the hall in preparation for Assembly, Miss Holmes took her arm and whispered: “Just be brave and don’t let them know how much it hurts. There are worse things between wind and water. You’ll live! I did.”

Penny felt this was extraordinarily kind, though it startled her to realise the old woman had been through this dreadful punishment. Whatever had the younger Miss Holmes done? Had she been innocent too? But she did not like to ask.

*     *     *     *     *

Another half an hour and a dry mouthed Penny was in Assembly and sitting on one of the chairs in the  Sixth Form balcony, not that there were a huge number of Sixth Formers to sit on the chairs. The more numerous Five Uppers and Fifth Form sat on a series of steps below the balcony. The rest of the school were on chairs in the body of the hall. Penny had carefully chosen a seat by the exit to the balcony, which it was almost certain she was going to have to use to get to the Headmistress‘s study, unless Madge had persuaded Rachel not to hand her name in. However, she dismissed that thought immediately because Miss Holmes had known what was going on. They had droned their way through various prayers and sung several hymns. Not long now, she thought. Surely it could not be worse than this waiting, which seemed to have gone on for days. The very solid figure of Miss Johnson began on various notices, mainly about Miss Silverman being ill and the consequent arrangements.

“And now we come to this morning’s punishments. The following girls will stand up so we can have a look at them. They will then go to my study and wait till I have time to deal with them.”

Penny felt her whole body give a lurch and she went briefly dizzy.

“Geraldine Patricia Chapman, 3A, persistent disobedience in class.”

A pretty rather diminutive red-head from the second year stood up in the further part of the hall. Penny always felt sorry for the victims at this point, and if anything this was even more so today when she was going to be punished herself.

Then the four Fourth Formers. She did not know their names apart from Jane Mitchell, and because her head was in such a state she still did not know them, even though their names were read out.

“Now, a most unusual event. I am, with great regret, going to have to punish an Upper Sixth Former. Penelope Virginia Augusta Smith of U6A, stand up and let us have a look at you. Miss Smith gave a cigarette to girls who were younger than herself and then lied about it, in addition to which she was extremely rude to the prefects who caught her.”

Penny found herself on her feet with all of five hundred eyes boring into her and giggling at her name. She felt disgraced for life. But she had not done it, had she? She must keep her dignity. With the greatest difficulty she restrained her tears.

“Now, all the girls I have just told to stand up will leave this assembly and wait outside my office, with the oldest last and the youngest first.”

Penelope bit her lip ferociously and walked out of the exit with as much dignity as she could manage. She walked very slowly and deliberately down the stairs to the small corridor that led to Miss Johnson’s office. She could feel her heart going like a drum. She was the last girl to arrive. Geraldine was just in front of her. Jane and her friends had got there first, which she thought with a sneer was fairly good proof they had been here before and knew where to go. Miss Hunte, the school secretary, was there to see they were in the right age order and generally supervise.

“I am surprised to see you here, Penelope!” She observed.

Penny restrained herself from saying she was also surprised to be there. Geraldine was quietly snivelling.

“At least you will be in first and get it over with, Geraldine.” Miss Hunte was saying briskly, though not unkindly, but Geraldine seemed past comfort.

Miss Johnson appeared with her academic gown on and disappeared into her office. After perhaps five minutes she appeared with it off and marched a protesting Geraldine into her office, clutching her left arm. Geraldine was shrieking she would be good, please could she be let off; but her voice was being drowned by an angry Headmistress telling her she was making a dreadful fuss. There was a pause, during which Penny imagined Geraldine clutching desperately at the sides of the seat of the chair with her school knickers horribly tight across the soft white flesh of her large bottom. Geraldine’s bottom was so large in proportion to the rest of her. Perhaps it was going to be the cane? Poor Geraldine! She should not have made such a fuss. However, rather to Penny’s relief there was the sound of six vigorously administered whacks with the slipper, each punctuated by a yelp and a horribly long pause. Penny realized with a shudder that the wait between whacks must make it a lot worse. Geraldine emerged in floods of tears, smoothing her gym slip. Penny reflected that having your gymslip taken up must be one of the worst bits of this punishment. She wondered if her skirt and slip would be taken up. She wished her knickers were thicker. Lower down the school they would have been much more substantial, but Sixth Formers were allowed to wear nylon stockings with suspenders and panties, which normally she was grateful for.

“Six was a bit much for a Third Former! That really was not fair.” Jane said, very fiercely, surprising Penny by the genuine indignation in her voice.

“She squeaked rather, didn‘t she!” Miss Hunte observed. “I suggest you all learn from this. It is not a good idea to make a fuss. It does no good whatsoever. Geraldine got at least two extra. I suggest you all bear that in mind.”

Miss Johnson emerged again and marched off the first of Jane Mitchell’s friends. Penny noticed the girl had rather a small bottom compared with Geraldine. The girl got four and made quite a lot less noise than the first victim. She was not crying that much when she emerged either, but looked very shaken, ominously shaken, Jane felt. If the slipper shook you that much, what was the cane going to be like? Still she had a very small bottom. Perhaps that made it worse. She glanced at Jane and noticed she was looking at her friend retreating down the corridor with obvious distress in her face. Penny felt surprised. She wondered if Jane was blaming herself, but that did not seem to fit with the little she knew of this naughty Fourth Former.

Penny found herself getting into almost a routine with the next three victims. There was a pause after the previous punishment, then the Headmistress emerged and took her next victim by the arm. The door shut. Then there was a pause, then the sound of the slipper. Jane found each time that she imagined what the slipper whacking the girl’s knickers looked like, even though she could not see it. It was a weird thing to do, she decided, but it gave her something to think about. Was there a relationship between the size of the victim’s bottom and the loudness of her yells? She noticed Jane looked very distressed each time. This surprised her, for she had imagined Jane was rather hard boiled. Perhaps she was more sensitive than she looked. Maybe she was blaming herself for getting her pals into this very unpleasant situation.

The second and third of Jane’s pals also got four. The second one yelled at the top of her voice and Miss Hunte observed she was, “putting it on a bit.”  The third one took it rather more quietly, if scarcely silently. The second one emerged saying she had never known anything could hurt so much. Jane remarked that it was Katy’s first time, she had always managed to miss it before, so this was to be expected. Miss Hunte agreed with this and remarked that Jane was for it this time, at which Jane shrugged her shoulders. The third member of Jane’s gang came out obviously trying hard not to cry, but not succeeding, and clutching her bottom hard. It had clearly hurt a lot. Again Penny noticed the surprising sensitivity in Jane’s eyes as she gazed at her soundly punished pal.

“Wish me luck.” Jane said unexpectedly in the brief gap that was left before her punishment.

“You’ll need it!” Remarked Miss Hunte. “I think you will be very lucky if it is not the cane this time, Jane.”

“Gee thanks!” Said Jane, her freckled face was sparkling, and for some strange reason Penny found herself joining in the laughter with Miss Hunte and Jane. Was there more to Jane than she had imagined? Perhaps a friend did not have to be your own age? What was suddenly attracting her to Jane of all people?

The door inevitably opened; and the stout figure of Miss Johnson in her inelegant grey skirt suit emerged yet again. She grasped Jane’s left arm as she always did and shoved her through the door.

“I hope she is not going to do that to me. I am quite capable of accepting my punishment and walking through a door.” Said Penny fiercely.

“It is how she always does it. Don’t argue with her, it is how she always does it. Are you accepting your punishment? I thought from what the prefect’s note said that you claimed you were innocent and would argue it?”

“I doubt if Miss Johnson would believe me. Besides it would get Jane and her friends in even hotter water, if the Head accepted my point of view.”

Penny felt suddenly protective towards Jane, but she was totally unsure why. What did it matter if this little fiend got expelled? She must have earned it. Miss Johnson was always very fair. And yet there was something about the girl that intrigued and attracted her. Perhaps it was the real courage Jane had just shown, laughing at her own punishment. Perhaps it was the shadows that had passed over her face during each slippering, even Geraldine’s, who was not her friend. And yet Jane had behaved horribly towards her. But Jane was so terribly pretty. Penny remembered the freckles, and the light on her face, and the skip in her walk. There had to be more to Jane than the silly ass she had encountered in the Senior Girls toilets.

“I would argue it in your position. Miss Johnson might well take the word of a Sixth Former, especially yours. She was saying to me you have always been a very good girl, and she knows you and Rachel Simpkins have never got on, to put it mildly. Still, as you want. The cane is nothing if not an interesting experience. And yes, that is what you are undoubtedly going to get, if you don‘t argue your case.”

Miss Hunte gave Penny a very strange amused look. Penny realized that Miss Johnson was having a longer conversation with Jane than with any of her previous victims. The whacking had started almost immediately with the previous four girls.

“If she is lucky,” observed Miss Hunte. “She is being told it will be the cane next time. If she is unlucky she is being told it is the cane on this occasion and next time it will be expulsion. She is pretty close to the record for the slipper in one year already and it is only February! The last Fourth Former who behaved like this got expelled.”

There was a howl of anguish.

“It will be Expulsion next time, I fancy.” Miss Hunte remarked very dryly.

Penny realized the noise was different this time. This was not the slipper, but the cane, and judging by Jane’s howls, which were coming at intervals of perhaps thirty seconds or more, she was getting quite a hiding. Penny began to feel great sympathy for Jane. It seemed to her that there was something rather splendid about someone who was so naughty that she got this boy’s punishment. Really she ought not to argue her own case. If she won, Jane would be thrown out of the school and she would never see her again. And, Penny reflected, if she tried to get her own punishment reversed, and failed, then she would probably get an even worse hiding, and judging by the howls emanating from study, the cane in Miss Johnson’s hands did really hurt. It was just not worth it. Penny found herself shuddering as the yells got louder.

“Poor girl, I think she got six.” Said Miss Hunte, sounding quite upset herself.

Jane emerged a good five minutes later, clutching her hands together and walking very awkwardly. The pretty freckled face was stained with tears, which were still flowing. There was something about her face that did not invite sympathy or assistance, but Penny was struck yet again by the girl’s prettiness, though it was she hastened to add to herself a rather tomboyish beauty, if you could have such a thing.

“What did you get?” Penny found herself asking, as if repeating some ancient ritual, wanting to say something.

“One on each hand, four on the back of my legs, of you must know. And yes, it really hurt!”

“Meet me at the tuck-shop and I will buy some chocolate to cheer us both up.”

“I’d like that. How about afternoon break? We should have recovered at least a bit by then.”

“Ok. Look forward.”

“I hope it isn’t too bad for you.”

“I hope so too.” 

Jane staggered off down the corridor, looking distinctly the worse for wear, but also very defiant. Penny gazed after her, wondering if the cane had touched the two pretty round ovals she could just about make out through Jane’s gymslip. She wondered why she found the thought so interesting. Oh god, it was her turn. She started to quake like a leaf.

“I bet the Head is upset. She never likes using the cane. You might even get off it, if you are lucky.”

Miss Hunte was possibly intending to say something more, but the door opened and Jane found herself being seized very roughly by her left arm and marched in front of the Headmistress’s desk on which several canes had been laid out.

“Have you anything to say in your defence before I punish you.”

“No, Miss Johnson. And I apologise for not admitting to the prefects that it was my cigarette.”

“That is greatly to your credit and will be remembered. Nevertheless I cannot let behaviour like this by a senior girl go unpunished. You are going to be severely caned on your hands and the back of your legs, and I expect you to take your punishment with as little fuss as possible, and preferably a certain amount of dignity. We will start with your hands. Hold your right hand out.”

Penny reluctantly held out her right hand and felt it being smoothed flat. Now the punishment was here she felt suddenly calm. If dear, gentle Miss Holmes had lived through it, then she could. Besides, she was saving Jane from certain expulsion and she really liked Jane. She shut her eyes, thinking she would much rather not see the cane. It descended, stinging her right palm agonisingly, but she managed not to yell. She instinctively clenched her fist and felt it being flattened out again. She could feel the tears rolling down her cheeks. The cane swished again and her whole body jerked. Again she held back the yell she wanted to let out.

“Left hand now!”

Another wave of pain. This time she yelled, though still holding it back a little. The pain seemed to wear you down, bit by bit.

The cane came down for the fourth time. This time she could not help herself, but screamed.

She found herself being seized again by the left arm and walked across the room. Then she was being pushed hard. She opened her eyes enough to realize she was across the back of a sofa and her face was into the seat of it. She supported herself with her hands, though she so wanted to put them up over her bottom and thighs, but to do so would surely mean an even worse punishment. Then she realized that her pleated outer skirt was above her waist. The cane swished and cracked viciously across the top of her thighs through her nylons and slip. She just did not believe the amount of pain. She had another three to endure and she howled like a baby while the lashes whipped mercilessly into the soft skin at the top of her thighs.

She lay over the back of the sofa for something like twenty minutes after it was all over and bawled. Then Miss Johnson, who had been reading some letters at her desk, came over and told her to make herself decent and go. This she did, though she was still in a daze.

As Penny came out of the Headmistress‘s study, Miss Hunte emerged from her own office.

“You look all at sea. You’d better come with me. Come on, we will use the staff loo. There, run your hands under the cold tap. I am going to put cream on the back of your legs. No don‘t wriggle, let me get at your suspenders. I need to take your stockings down.”

Penny gratefully felt the cool water flow over her inflamed hands. She would normally have objected to anyone else fiddling with her suspenders, but Miss Hunte was very gentle and careful and the stockings were got out of the way with a minimum of discomfort and then large quantities of cream were rubbed in.

“Even by the Head’s standards it’s a very impressive piece of braceletting. You should have something to show off for weeks, my girl.”

“Do you think anyone else will want to look?”

“Of course they will. I should charge.”

“I wonder if Jane’s bracelets, as you call them, are as bad as mine?”

“Why don’t you ask her? She will probably be thrilled to show you. I could see how much she liked you. And I did not think you were that averse to Miss Jane Mitchell. Indeed I could not help thinking that you asked her for something very like a date and she accepted. And unless I am very much mistaken you just took a caning a lot of boys would have thought severe, just to make sure Jane Mitchell did not get expelled. A very strange thing is love. Anyway I hope you enjoy your first date.”

“What date?” Retorted Penny, but Jane’s bright freckled face was flashing across her mind even as she said it.

The End

© Jane Fairweather 2013   (Click here to view Amazon Author Page for Jane Fairweather)