Black Marks

Forgetting homework and then arguing with a teacher is never a good idea.

 By Jane Fairweather

Pamela Ash was feeling edgy. On Monday, in a flash of unwise temper, she had answered back to Jacko, which you did not do, even if, as frequently happened, the Geography teacher had got it wrong. Very unfairly in her view, she had been given two black marks for insolence, which was one more than she had ever had. Well, except for that term in the Fourth Form when she had been naughty on principle till she got bored with it.

It was Thursday, and she could still end up with three or even four black marks by Friday. If you got to three, you had half an hour’s detention after school which was not too bad in itself, but it went on till half past four and that meant she would miss the last school bus and that meant she would have to catch two buses instead of one. By the time her Mother had insisted that she must eat her meal, she would probably miss the interesting thriller at the cinema, since that meant catching yet another bus. The timing would be very tight.

But quite apart from that, her cousin, Susan, who lived in the town and had already started work in a bank, had arranged for her to meet what Susan claimed was a really interesting boy, who would be just right for her; and in a quiet way she was always a bit embarrassed by her lack of success with the opposite sex. Anyway, she had been very careful to do her essay for Miss Woakes, who had just entered the class room in her long pleated skirt, white blouse and severe black hair. Miss Woakes looked, Pamela reflected, as if the Nineteen Twenties had never happened, let alone the Thirties.

“Gather in the essays for me, would you Cynthia?” The tall and imposing figure of Miss Woakes was proclaiming.

“But Miss,” said Cynthia Ferguson, alias Cinch. “We don’t normally hand them in till tomorrow.”

“Oh really, Cynthia, I did tell you all on Monday that I am going away this weekend to attend my Aunt’s funeral and I need the books today, Thursday, if I am to get them back to you on Monday. I do wish you girls would listen.”

Pamela thanked her lucky stars that she had remembered; she was quite sure somebody, quite possibly several somebodies, would have forgotten the History essay was due in today.

The elegant Cinch with her long flowing ginger hair, who was as tall as Miss Woakes, if altogether more slender, rose to her feet, looking very uneasy and began to walk round the class holding out her hand for each girl’s History essay book in turn.

There was some hasty scrabbling in satchels, which Pamela noticed with a certain superiority, thinking some people at least would have not got their essay with them and get a black mark. She at least had done a good essay and taken care to have it ready to be handed in. But then she reached into her satchel and a horrible thought came into her head; she had left the exercise book on her desk in her bedroom at home. How on earth had she done it? But perhaps a direct approach might get her off the hook?

She stuck her hand up and asked: “Please, Miss Woakes, I am afraid I have left it at home, so can I bring it to the staff room first thing tomorrow? I will bring it as soon as I can.”

Then a very obviously blushing Cinch was saying, before Miss Woakes could answer: “I am afraid I have done the same, Miss, and I am on three black marks, Miss. Please Miss.”

Everyone looked up with interest. Pamela sardonically decided Cynch must have been caught smoking again, which carried an automatic three black marks, the most you could get except for bullying which meant an immediate caning and no bothering with black marks, which Pamela rather approved of.

But in a normal world the first two black marks did not count, and the third earned you a detention after school on Friday and most girls were very careful not to get more than two, and certainly not more than three. However, four usually meant the slipper from the Head on Friday afternoon, or very occasionally one or two strokes of the cane on the hands. But the most dreaded thing was getting five or more black marks; that meant a very sound three to six strokes of the cane on the seat of your knickers. The trouble was, you could build up black marks for very minor things. Pamela shivered slightly at that, though she also could not help imagining Cinch minus her gym slip with her hands on her knees and a large tennis shoe thumping into her intriguingly small bottom. She had never seen a slippering, but that was how she had always imagined it.

“Really, I cannot make exceptions for you two, well behaved though you both normally are. I shall put you both down for a black mark. And if you don’t bring your essays to me in the morning, that will be another black mark apiece.”

So poor old Cinch really was going to get the slipper, Pam thought; it really was jolly unfair, but there was no point in saying so.

“But Miss, it is so unfair! I am going to get the slipper for almost nothing!” Cinch was protesting.

“Cynthia! I shall pretend I did not hear that.” Said Miss Woakes, not unkindly. “I would rather not be responsible for having you caned, which is what would undoubtedly happen if I were to give you that extra black mark you have undoubtedly just earned. Now girls, do any more of you need to own up? If you do it now you will get one black mark. If you leave it for me to find out your essay is missing then there will be an extra one. Do we understand one another?”

Another two hands uneasily went up.

*         *          *

Friday had come round rather slowly as far as Pamela was concerned.

“Hi Pam!” Cinch was calling to her as they both walked towards the staff room, History essay books in their hands. “Looking forward to your first detention, are you?”

Pamela knew Cinch well enough to know that she was being facetious.

“It is certainly not my first detention, Pam!” She protested mildly. “I was always getting them in 4A and I kept missing the slipper by a whisker.”

“And I kept getting it by a whisker!” Said Cinch laughing. “At least I know what it is like. It won’t be too bad.”

“I seem to remember you always cried buckets, my girl!” Pamela retorted.

“Well it’s not a punishment if you don’t get a bit of glory out of it, and tears add to the general impression.” Cinch observed mischievously.

Pam reflected her memory was rather different. Cinch had always returned from Miss Alwyn’s study in rather a state. However, she did not say so.

“Does seem a bit extreme, to be getting the slipper in the Sixth, though.” Cinch added by way of an afterthought.

“Shouldn’t get caught smoking then, should you?”

“It’s that wretched new mistress, Miss Dyamond; hard as her name would suggest if it had an I and not a Y. Can you believe it? She went looking for smokers in the Sixth Form Loos. Nobody does that!”

“It is scarcely a school rule Cinch!”

“Yes, but you know what I mean. Are you coming to see the film with your cousin and her lot?”

“I will probably miss it because of the detention, but I will try.”

“Hard cheese, hard cheese. Almost pay to get whacked, wouldn’t it?”

“No, I don’t fancy that. It must be incredibly embarrassing as well as painful. Besides Mum has always said that if I get punished at school I would get something to remember at home, and I don’t fancy two good hidings in one day.”

“Oh come on, Pam. Your Mum’s bark is worse than her bite. She won’t do it now you are almost a grown up.”

“I am not sure.”

“Oh well, you can think of me at three o’clock waiting my turn with half a dozen juniors.”

“Well good luck with it and I hope it does not hurt too much. I’ve Geography first. You always have Latin then don’t you?”

“Spot on! Maybe we will see one another in the frees after. I’ve got French just before the dreaded event.”

Cinch departed down the corridor, her long ginger hair moving slightly with her head as she walked, and her small buttocks just about visible through her gym slip. It was enough to make Pamela imagine the slippering that was coming and make her feel oddly envious.

*         *          *

Pamela went in to her Geography lesson still feeling just a touch irrationally envious of Cinch. It seemed to her it was something of a failing in herself that she had never had a real good hiding, and the nearest she had come to it was a couple of slaps on her wrist when she was six or seven. And moreover, if she got the slipper she would miss the detention and get to meet this very interesting boy that her cousin had promised to introduce her to. It might even provide a good introductory line, to announce she had just had the slipper.

This might well have remained in the realm of the theoretical, but for one of Miss Jackson’s famous slips of memory. It was not at all relevant to the main lesson, but she suddenly said that Long Island was by Washington. The other girls knew Jacko hated being corrected and could respond very badly to it, so smiled a little and said nothing.

However, despite what had happened on Monday, Pamela could not resist calling out: “I think you mean New York, Miss Jackson.”

“Pamela Ash, even in the Sixth Form, I expect you to put your hand up and not interrupt my flow. So you think you know better than I do? Is that it, girl?”

“I am quite sure that I am right, Miss Jackson. Long Island is by New York.”

“Whether it is or it isn’t, your attitude, Miss Ash, is extremely insolent and you will apologise.”

Pamela paused. Half of her was very aware it would be very easy to cross a very painful Rubicon if she did not apologise, while the other half found the prospect quite intriguing.

“Well girl, are you going to apologise, or not?” Jacko was demanding, glaring at her wayward pupil over the top of her glasses.

Pamela was aware of the other eight girls’ eyes fixed on her, which possibly stiffened her resolve, for she opened her mouth to apologise and then burst out almost unintentionally: “Why shouldn’t we tell you when you forget something? You’ve no right to be so tyrannical.”

“Well Miss Ash, I am going to confirm your opinion of me by giving you another two black marks for insolence, which should ensure you get the slipper later this afternoon. And, given the scale of your rudeness, I shall be speaking to Miss Alwyn about the possibility of your knickers descending to your knees. Unfortunately I can only give two black marks for insolence. Three on top of the two I gave you on Monday would mean the cane, wouldn’t it? I can only say I regret my inability to do that. Now shall we proceed with the lesson? As I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted…”

Pamela went off into an inner world of her own as she realized that, because of the black mark for failing to hand her History essay in, she was undoubtedly going to get the cane in roughly five hours. She found half of herself was deeply, but rather deliciously, scared and the other half was rather looking forward to experiencing the ultimate penalty and the undoubted notoriety it would bring. Very few girls had really had the cane and she would be among them! Getting caned might make an even better introductory line for the interesting boy than having the slipper!

*         *          *

It had been an uncomfortable fifteen or twenty minutes as four girls from the first three years had each in turn entered Miss Alwyn’s study and emerged in varying degrees of distress. Two Fourth Formers had come out with drawn faces, very obviously determined not to cry. One Second and one Third Former had emerged crying their eyes out. Now Mary Kite, ‘Kitty’, from the Five Uppers, a very pretty blond creature with blue eyes and soft skin who Pamela had always had a slight crush on, was being very soundly lectured. They could hear the noise of Miss Alwyn’s ferocious voice through the door, even though the words were inaudible.

Cinch’s eyes met Pamela’s. While the other younger girls were there, they had avoided talking and it was the first time their paths had crossed since the morning.

“Poor Kitty, I feel really bad about it.” Cinch said. “It was me who invited her into the Sixth Form Loos to share a ciggy with me when the dreaded Miss Dyamond swept in; and now she is getting done for being out of bounds as well as smoking. I think she’s on five marks, poor creature. I bet she gets three or four with the cane. But why on earth are you here? You were only on three black marks the last I heard, and you are not exactly the naughtiest girl in the school. Or did you decide to get whacked so you could get to the flics? Wouldn’t put that past you!”

Pamela told her briefly.

“What! You actually defied Jacko twice! You must be the bravest girl in the school, or the maddest. You will get the cane for five black marks, you know. Do you think you are up to it?”

“I will have to be!” Said Pamela, biting her lip and not at all sure.

Her doubts were reinforced by the sound of loud yells emerging from the study.

“Kitty is getting the cane!” Cinch observed, rather cold bloodedly to Pamela’s mind. “It makes such a different noise to the slipper.”

Pamela realised she had been silently counting the yells and there had been five, and now they had stopped. Was it going to be her or Cinch next? Would it be best to get it over with, or put it off that bit longer? Would she get the full six of the best? Insolence was always regarded very seriously. What had previously seemed almost a joke was suddenly frightening; she could feel her mouth go dry and her body start to tremble.

Kitty emerged with the tears rolling down her soft cheeks, her blond head bowed and looking extremely shaken.

“I never thought it would hurt so much.” She said through her tears. “And it is still hurting.”

“It does.” Cinch observed briskly. “I’ve had it from my mother. Kitty, go and wait for us in the loo along the corridor. I’ve got some cream. I don’t suppose Pam and I will be long.”

“God! It hurts! Is all I can say. I will see you in a few mins, then. I will be very glad of that cream!” Kitty replied and staggered off down the corridor.

Pamela barely had time to reflect that Kitty was as pretty from the back as from the front and the door opened. It was the very solid figure of the grey haired Miss Alwyn in her tweed suit, but unwontedly minus her jacket and with her plain white blouse’s sleeves rolled up. Pamela wondered why she was now taking notice of how Miss Alwyn looked, when she had already seen her a number of times that afternoon. She felt slightly sick as Miss Alwyn’s eyes moved thoughtfully between the two Sixth Formers.

“I must say it is rather unusual to have to deal with two Sixth Formers on a Friday afternoon. I cannot remember when it last happened.”

The Headmistress paused while Pamela’s heart descended even further into her boots, then said slowly and decisively: “I think I will deal with Miss Ferguson first as there are matters arising from the last punishment.”

Pamela found her shaking getting worse as she watched Cinch following her headmistress into the study. What had she got herself into! She could hear the noise of the short but extremely angry lecture. Then to her surprise Cinch was definitely pleading. Why was Cinch pleading? Cinch was used to the slipper, so why was she pleading? The answer came with the sound of a cane, and what could only be described as an animal like howl. Pamela writhed as much as if she was being caned herself as Cinch bawled at the top of her head. She thought she counted six strokes. Poor Cinch. There was a distinct pause before the door opened and a hysterical Cinch emerged, desperately clutching her bottom, and vanished down the corridor towards the loo before Pamela could ask her what on earth had happened.

The door opened yet again and Miss Alwyn was beckoning her in. She found herself in front of the large desk with her hands behind her back glancing uneasily at a long flexible rattan cane of nearly four feet, a rather smaller one of slightly under three feet and a large tennis shoe side by side on the desk. She crossed her fingers and prayed devoutly she would get the smaller cane or even the slipper and not that large monstrosity, which she suspected was what had just reduced Cinch to a jabbering wreck.

“I have rarely been so angry!” The Headmistress was saying ferociously. “Leading a younger girl on to smoke, selling her cigarettes, encouraging her to be out of bounds. Miss Ferguson is lucky to still be in this school. She seriously suggested she should only get the slipper because she only had four black marks. I rapidly gave her another couple.

“But now, young lady, we had better deal with you. Yours is altogether a different case. I cannot let you off being punished which would undermine the system we have here, which depends on invariable punishments.

“However, I have heard more than once from Old Girls of Miss Jackson’s far from pleasant attitude to her pupils and you are the first person I can recall who actually had the courage to say boo to Miss Jackson’s goose. I have told her insolence is not defined by pupils, especially Sixth Formers, contradicting her and that in the future she should enter into reasonable dialogue with those she teaches, especially Sixth Formers.

“Therefore I am just going to give you three not very severe strokes of the cane. Pull your gym slip and any petticoats above your waist and bend over the side of that armchair over there. Now please, Miss Ash.”

Pamela staggered over to the chair and very reluctantly pulled her skirts up before taking a deep breath and very self-consciously bending over the side. She could feel her bottle green knickers that went half way down her thighs almost to her knees tightening.

It suddenly struck her rather irrationally that she would like to see Kitty in the same position or even feel her bending over the chair beside her with their bottoms touching.

There was a pause that Pamela found even more frightening while Miss Alwyn swished the cane about. She tried think about what Kitty would look like bent over in the same position she was; at least it gave her something to think about other than Miss Alwyn’s dreadful swishing of her cane, even if it was a bit silly. Then she sensed the headmistress moving towards her. Pamela shut her eyes. The cane swished for real and she felt it bite into the soft flesh of her behind and a welt rising. She said: “Ouch!” With some feeling and felt water in her eyes, which annoyed her; she would have preferred not to cry.

Again a series of swishes which she found unnerving, not least because the pain from the first stroke was getting worse. Then the second stroke, which could not have been more than a quarter of an inch from its predecessor and stung if anything worse. Again, she said: “Ouch!” And found herself wriggling up and down a little.

Then a long wait for the third stroke; she almost asked not to be kept waiting for it, but then thought better of it. The stroke, when it came, was the hardest of the three and she yelped and thrust her hands back over her bottom.

She found herself standing, smarting incredibly and, somewhere in the distance, being told she could go.

*         *          *

“So you got three strokes of the cane for insolence to your Geography teacher.” Her mother was saying very angrily. “So you must have been extremely naughty.”

The topic had come up because she had been forced to get a cushion to sit on at Evening Meal. What was supposedly a mild punishment had left her in some pain. She recalled the huge angry welts on Kitty and Cinch’s bottoms, which she had rubbed cream into. She had got off quite lightly compared with that, she supposed.

“But Miss Jackson was as much in trouble as I was. Miss Alwyn was not at all pleased with her.”

“Don’t make it worse by lying. Go to your bedroom this instant.”

“But I was going to go to the pictures with my friends.”

“That does it! You, my girl, are for it when your father gets home. Now go to your bedroom this instant.”

There did not seem to be any point in arguing. She went upstairs and lay face down on her bed and tried not to cry.

About an hour later she heard the front door and a loud discussion between her parents. Then there was the sound of feet on the stairs. Then the door opened.

She was expecting Father, but it was actually Mother who had the cane in her hand. She realized Dad was shuffling about on the landing.

“Now you are older we both feel it is better if I give it you, not that you have ever had it before.” Her Mother was saying. “Now up on your feet, young lady, and bend over the bed.”

She was tempted to refuse, but also frightened her father would come in and hold her if she made a fuss and she would get extra, so she reluctantly stood and bent over the bed, clutching the eiderdown, feeling her knickers tighten for the second time that day. Her mother pulled up the pretty dress and petticoat she had put on to impress her friends and this boy. Much use that had been, she thought.

She got six, distributed fairly evenly over her thighs and bottom, but at least Mother lacked Miss Alwyn’s horribly good timing and she did not swish the cane about so you did not know when the next stroke was coming; and altogether the punishment, though scarcely mild, was nothing like as severe. Not that she felt exactly comfortable as she lay face down on her bed weeping into her pillow for several hours.

Life, she decided, as she came to a little was anything but fair. She found herself reliving her two canings almost stroke by stroke and also wondered why she had found Kitty’s well caned bum at once so horrifying and so intriguing. Kitty was very pretty and would make a good friend, she decided, if she could get her away from Cinch, who she suddenly realized she was rather jealous of.

Then she began to feel slightly better and wonder if there was another time she could meet this famous boy that her cousin had lined up for her? Would he be impressed she had managed to get the cane, or would he look down on her for it?

The End

© Jane Fairweather 2016

To view Jane’s Amazon Author Page and Jane’s ebooks, click here: