Matron has some time away during the holidays but is disappointed by her Goddaughters attitude. The next in the series.
By Tara Patterson
The two members of the medical staff of Queen Anne school, Ambleside were relaxing in the Matron’s sitting room. It was getting near the end of the Christmas term. It had just gone lights out. The school was quiet. Sixty-five year old matron Meryl Taylor kicked off her white plimsolls and took off her uniform belt. She gave a long sigh as she stretched out on the floral sofa.
“You look tired Meryl,” said her colleague, under-matron Patterson, as she brought in their evening coco. “Are you going away over the holidays or are you staying here? I’m looking forward to a few weeks at home. It’s my turn to cook Christmas dinner this year; it gives Mum a break.”
“I’m having Christmas dinner in Preston with Jennifer Hapwood,” replied Meryl. “And then it’s down to Oxford to spend a week with another old friend, Kari Mawhood.”
Tara smiled. “Crumbs, two names from my past too. Miss Hapwood? Been in trouble with her a few times, and Mawhood used to be in my form. Didn’t she have a baby when we were in the fourth year?”
“Yes, she did Tara,” replied Meryl. “A true Gymslip Mum if ever there was one. She kept the pregnancy well hidden from us all. Such a surprise when she gave birth. I remember finding her in agony with her waters broken in one of the bathrooms in CJ house. It was a foul night if you remember, and the ambulance couldn’t get here because of the snow so I had to deliver Sally there and then on the bathroom floor. That was the last time I used my midwife training. Sally Meryl is twenty now, at university too.”
“It was nice Kari gave her daughter your name as a middle name,” said Tara as she sat down. “I haven’t seen her since. How is she doing?”
Meryl smiled with some pride as she picked up a framed graduation photo.
“This was her ten years ago. When Sally went to school, Kari went back to school herself and studied to become an accountant. It’s what she wanted to do when she was here. It was hard for her; working, studying and bringing up her daughter on her own. They have got a lovely little house in Oxford, She has done so well considering her family practically disowned her at the time of Sally’s birth. I suppose that’s why Kari made me Sally’s godmother; she had no one else back then.”
* * *
“Oh Matron, I’m so glad you have noticed,” sobbed Kari. She was thirty-six, with a size fourteen figure, with blonde hair cut into a bob. “I thought it was just me but Sally has been so morose and rude lately; out till all hours, always on Facebook when she should be studying and not only that, I’ve heard that her timekeeping and attitude at the deli is so bad they are probably going to let her go when it goes quiet after Christmas. Oh I feel such a failure as a mum. I thought I had brought her up better than this. But she just won’t take any notice any more of what I say.”
Meryl put down her coffee and put her arms around her friend. Kari had become like a daughter to her. Kari let all her stress go and sobbed into Meryl’s thick Christmas jumper.
“She used to be such a studious and polite girl,” comforted Meryl. “I don’t think it’s anything you have done, sweetheart. I’m sure it’s just a bit of late teen rebellion. The boots, the ripped jeans and the dark make-up. Quite a few girls go through that phase. We were lucky at that age. I had the navy nursing corps to keep me in check and I know you were too busy to rebel. Look, Kari, you are a great mum, look at what you have achieved. Don’t feel bad or a failure. Would you like me to see what I can do? I’ll make her listen to me if I have to.”
Kari’s face lit up. “Would you, Matron? I’m at my wits end with her. I don’t know what else to do. I know she’s twenty but she needs keeping in check before it’s too late.”
* * *
“Here goes,” smiled Meryl as she turned off the internet router. “Now we wait.”
Sure enough, five minutes later there was the heavy sound of boots stomping around upstairs, then the sound got louder as Sally Mawhood thumped down the stairs.
“Fucking Wi-Fi has gone off again,” she announced as she crashed through the door into the sitting room. “I’ve told you we need a better supplier. This connection is…”
Sally’s voice tailed off as she saw Meryl and Kari standing stony-faced in front of the switched off internet router.
“For a start, young lady, we will have no more swearing in this house,” snapped Meryl. “Stand up straight, and look at you, what a mess.”
“Huh,” grunted Sally as Meryl slowly paced around her Goddaughter, who slouched open-mouthed in the middle of the room.
“Hardly a ladylike appearance, is it?” Began Meryl. “Big heavy boots, ripped jeans, that scruffy T-shirt, and that make up so dark and thick. It’s just not you. What happened to that polite, pretty little girl who I used to come and babysit? In fact, your appearance says it all about your attitude, Do you realise what upset and worry you have caused your Mother? After all she has done for you, all she has sacrificed and this is how you repay her, chucking your weight about making demands, being rude. This stops now.”
Meryl glanced at Kari. She was crying.
“Told you she wouldn’t listen, Matron,” she whispered.
Sally just looked at her mother blankly.
“Right then, Sally Mawhood,” continued the old Matron. “Time for a few changes. Go upstairs to the bathroom. In there you will find a dress, a cardigan, a pair of tights and some more appropriate shoes. You will clean off that horrid make-up, including the black nail varnish, and then get changed. When you come back down you will conduct yourself with a little more decorum and grace than I have seen of you so far on this visit. You have fifteen minutes; off you go.”
Sally left the room. There was a slow clump, clump, clump, as she climbed the stairs to the bathroom.
Fifteen minutes later, she was back in the sitting room standing before her Mother and Matron Taylor. This time she was dressed in a knee length red floral pattern dress, her legs were clad in a pair of nude tights and on her feet a pair of black ballet flats, her long brown hair was tied back in a ponytail. Sally fiddled with the buttons of her white cardigan. The room was quiet; the only sound a blackbird out in the garden and the sound of a car driving past.
Meryl stood and inspected her goddaughter’s appearance for a moment before she spoke. Her voice was soft but full of authority.
“Right them, Mawhood, much better. Much more ladylike and what you should be wearing on a Sunday. My Mother always insisted that I wore a dress on a Sunday when I was at home from school. I hoped that I would never have to do this to you but I’m afraid your actions over the last few months have caused your Mum so much upset that this is the only way. I made a promise on the day you were christened that I would help and guide throughout your upbringing and today is one of the days I put that promise in to action. As I’m sure you are aware, I’m quite used to dealing with girls who think they know it all. What you deserve, my girl, is a good sound hiding. That will make you think just how much pain and upset you have caused. Unfortunately I have left my strap at school. It’s not the sort of thing I usually pack when I travel so we are having to improvise a little. Have you found it, Kari?”
“Y-yes, Matron,” stammered Kari. Her eyes were wet with tears as she handed over a red converse plimsoll with a white sole.
“You can’t do this! I’m an adult. I have rights,” snapped Sally as she looked at the plimsoll in Meryl’s hand.
“Maybe so, Mawhood,” retorted Meryl. “But your Mum has rights too; to be shown some respect and thanks from her daughter. She has worked so hard to give you all that you have got and this is how you repay her. You need to buck your ideas up. And when you get sacked from your job for your bad timekeeping and attitude you will still expect food, shelter and money from you Mum won’t you? Yes I know you are an adult and a very intelligent one at that. If you won’t accept a slippering, then out there in the hallway is the door. You could always leave home, live by your own rules.”
Sally began to realise the error of her ways. She looked at her Mum who was still crying, then the tears started in her own eyes.
“Okay, Aunt Meryl you win. I’ll take it. What happens now?”
Meryl looked into Sally’s eyes. Deep within them she saw the loving caring girl who she had first seen as a new-born baby on that cold bathroom floor back in 1995. This slippering was going to be painful for her too.
Meryl took a deep breath.
“Bend over the back of that armchair. I think eight strokes of this slipper should address the shocking display that I have witnessed since my arrival. I will then leave it to your Mum to deal with the rest of your behaviour.”
Sally did as she was told. She moved slowly to the back of the armchair that Meryl had positioned in the middle of the room. She bent over the back and rested her head in the seat of the chair. As Meryl lifted her goddaughter’s dress clear of her bottom, Sally put her clenched fist into her mouth and began to sob in shame. Meryl then eased Sally’s tights down her thighs leaving her bottom covered with a pair of tightly stretched light blue knickers.
“Now this is for your own good, Sally Meryl Mawhood,” said Meryl as she lightly tapped the plimsoll on Sally’s quivering bottom. “Don’t think for a minute that I want to do this but it is the only way, my girl.”
THWACK, THWACK, THWACK
Meryl delivered three hard strokes.
“ARRRGH! OWWW! NO!” Screamed Sally. “That really hurts.”
“Only what you deserve,” snapped Meryl. “We are not even half way.”
“OH! FUCK! ARRGH! STOP THIS!” Shouted Sally as she straightened up.
“Did your Aunt say you could get up Sally?” Scolded Kari. “Get back over that chair, now, before she gives you extra strokes.”
Sally eased herself down and got back into position. Kari knelt in front of her daughter and took a firm hold of Sally’s wrists.
“Just in case, Matron,” whispered Kari.
THWACK, THWACK, THWACK.
This time Sally was quiet. She just grunted after each stroke. She looked up into her Mum’s eyes and through her tears she whispered: “I’m sorry, Mum.”
As was Meryl’s way, the last stroke was the hardest of them all.
“You may get up now, Sally.” Meryl said softly.
Sally winced in pain as she stood up. She reached under her dress, rubbed her bottom and went to pull her tights up.
“Not yet, young lady, we haven’t finished with you,” snapped Meryl. “Now it’s your Mother’s turn.”
“Come here, Sally.” Kari commanded.
Sally looked across at her Mum who was sitting on the end of the leather corner sofa. In her hand was a large black hair brush.
“I’ll leave you to it then, Kari,” said Meryl softly as she made her way to the sitting room door. “I’ll be back in an hour or so.”
As Meryl turned to close the door, she saw Kari pulling her daughter down over her lap. Out in the hall, Meryl put on her coat and scarf, took off her slippers and pulled on her long black leather boots. As she zipped up the boots she heard the slap, slap, slap of the hair brush on Sally’s bottom and her cries of pain.
It was almost dark when Meryl returned to the house. She found Kari sitting at the kitchen table staring into space. She looked like she had only just stopped crying.
“How is she?” Meryl asked Kari, putting her hand on her friends shoulder.
“Upstairs, Matron, still crying, I think. That was horrid. When I had finished she just ran upstairs distraught. It was all I could do to stay down here. I wanted to run up after her to comfort her.”
Meryl gave Kari a comforting smile. “Well done, that’s the hard part done. Now is the time to go upstairs and make it up with your girl. She has had long enough to feel sorry for herself and lick her wounds. Take her up this cold cream and give her a cuddle. I guarantee that upstairs now is the Sally that we both know and love.”
Kari took the small pot of cream out of the chemist’s bag on the table and made her way up to her daughter’s room. Meryl followed but she kept a small respectful distance behind.
Sally lay face down on her bed. She was still sobbing, cuddled up to her pillow. Her shoes and tights lay discarded in the middle of the floor. Kari sat down on the edge of the bed and stroked her daughter’s hair. She whispered something in Sally’s ear. Sally eased herself up and put her arms around her Mum.
* * *
Several days later, Meryl was putting her suitcase into her car. Kari embraced her old friend to wish her goodbye.
“Thank you for all you have done, Matron. I hope all that unpleasantness at the beginning hasn’t spoilt your stay too much?”
“Not at all,” smiled Meryl. “I’m only too glad to help. It’s been a lovely week. I feel quite refreshed and recharged ready to face the term ahead. As for Sally, I think we are starting to notice an improvement already. She left for work with quite a spring in her step this morning, didn’t she?”
As they spoke they weren’t aware of Sally running down the street towards them. Gone, the ripped jeans and dark make up. She was wearing a duffle coat, a knee length winter dress, a pair of dark tights and a pair of low heeled knee length black boots. On her head, a green bobble hat. In her hand, a large shopping bag.
“Aunt Meryl!” She called down the street. “Don’t go yet, I’m glad I’ve caught you. I’ve got something for you.”
Meryl held out her arms and hugged Sally warmly.
“You are looking lovely today, quite the pretty young woman. I’m glad I’ve seen you too.”
“I’ve got news,” Sally began. “I’ve done lots of thinking and crying since Sunday. You were right, I need to change. I had a long talk with my boss at the deli today, told her I’ve been acting a total bitch just lately and apologised. Well, she isn’t going to sack me. In fact, I’ve been promised more hours when things pick up. Also, that assignment that I need to do for Uni before I go back? Well I’ve decided what I have done so far is rubbish, not my best work, so I’ve deleted it and I’m going to do it again instead of going out on New Year’s eve. Oh and these are for you both. My little way of saying sorry.”
Meryl opened the bag. Inside were two Christmas hampers of cooked meats, cheeses and chutneys.
“I thought of flowers but I didn’t know how they would travel so I have used my Christmas tips to make you both a hamper. I know how you like your good food. These are to say thank-you to you for showing me the error of my ways. I want you to be proud of me again. Oh and another thing, my teaching practice in the summer? I’ve decided to apply to do it at your school, Aunt Meryl.”
Meryl looked at her goddaughter.
“That’s great news, I hope you get the placement you want. Although, if you come to Queen Anne’s you will be living in one of our boarding houses, staying by my rules, no exceptions or favouritism.”
“I’ll look forward to it, Aunt Meryl. I won’t let you down.”
© Tara Patterson 2016