Just as a girl thinks she’s in line for promotion to Head Girl, her past catches up with her.
By Joanna Jones
It was the first week back after the summer holidays. Anne was back in the upper sixth, and was having some difficulty concentrating on her A-level biology lesson. It was the second day back, a Friday afternoon, and usually by now the choice of new Head Girl from those who had been prefects in the lower sixth had been made. She knew she must be one of two or three with a strong chance. In addition to being bright and popular with her classmates, her disciplinary record was exemplary, as near perfect as one could get at a school with a reputation like St. Joan’s she thought, reflecting on her few experiences of the school’s discipline policy.
Just as she started to get ready to go after the bell for afternoon break went, she heard Mrs Cole call her to help her clear up the demonstration she had been showing them. Anne shrugged to her friends as they filed out. It did not take her more than a few minutes to wipe the lab bench and she was about to leave to catch up with Joan and Emma when Mrs Cole said: “Miss Norbert wants to see you in her office. She asked me to be discrete in asking you.”
Miss Norbert, the headmistress! Anne’s heart gave a jump; surely this could only mean one thing, that she was going to be Head Girl! After thanking Mrs Cole she made her way down the corridor as quickly as decorum would let her.
In the school office the secretary smiled at her barely concealed excited face, and pointed her to the headmistress’ door. Anne took a deep breath and knocked.
Miss Norbert reflected as she called: “Come in,” how different the confident knock was to that of most girls visiting her office, who were prone to a tentative tap knowing that they were usually in for a rather uncomfortable time as she got to the ‘bottom’ of their misdemeanours.
As Anne came in Miss Norbert invited her to sit down. “Anne,” she started. “I was looking through your file recently, and you have an excellent record, no detentions, although I noticed that you got the cane in both second and third years.”
“Yes Miss,” answered Anne. “Both by Mr Brenson. Both times he caned the whole class for fooling around too much when he was a little late in arriving. He felt it was dangerous in his science labs.”
Anne remembered both canings well, as each girl had lined up for two (three in third year) strokes of the short junior cane teachers were allowed to use. In contrast to most, who caned on the hands, he had done it across their knickers, skirts lifted, across his desk. All the girls, including herself, thought he enjoyed caning far too much. Whatever, he certainly was very quick to get his cane out. Most of her friends had had more than those two visits across his desk.
That Mr Brenson was too free with his punishments was something Miss Norbert would agree with. All canings were recorded in the school record, and Mr Brenson certainly was the ‘leading’ teacher on the list, although by no means the only one with such a reputation. In addition to the punishment it was a rule that caned pupils were required to bring a signed note into school from their parents the following day, which brought Miss Norbert to her current issue.
“It is about these two canings I have a bit of a question I’m afraid. You see your father’s signature is a bit different in both. In this first one it looks exactly as that on your school application form, but on this one from third year it is different.” Miss Norbert had pulled the three papers out and pointed to each as she talked. “What I wanted to ask was for your assurance that it was indeed your father that signed this.” She said pointing to the final piece.
Anne stared at the three signatures on the desk, two on the slips and one on the application form. In contrast to her elation and excitement of only a minute ago she now felt sick. The last one was indeed her forgery from over three and a half years ago. She didn’t know what to say.
As far as Miss Norbert was concerned the ashen look on Anne’s face was admission enough. However, she waited impassively for her answer, hoping she would tell the truth. She rather liked Anne, and she was in trouble enough.
Finally Anne answered. “I’m sorry Miss, but you are correct in asking. The, the last one is mine, I, I forged it.” She stammered out. Anne felt sick to the pit of her stomach. It was all she could do not to cry. She dreaded to hear what would happen to her.
Miss Norbert sighed. “Would you like to tell me why?”
Anne blurted out the story. Miss Norbert listened intently as she explained how on both occasions in class she had sat at her desk and even risked the irritation of her classmates by encouraging them to sit down. However, that had not saved her from Mr Brenson’s cane, nor the note home.
What Miss Norbert had not appreciated was the rather austere view of school support Anne’s parents had. A school caning, even one where the whole class was involved, merited a further punishment at home. Anne’s father used a thick leather strap and, from Anne’s brief description of the blistering her bare bottom received, that was certainly worse than the punishment inflicted by the standard issue teacher’s cane in the school. After what had happened in second year she had felt that it was so unfair that she was going to be strapped as well for something she was innocent of that she had signed the form herself.
As Miss Norbert listened she reflected on her own schooldays, and her parents similar ‘school support’, although at least on the three occasions involved she had deserved it. The punishment was always one ‘lick’ of a thick, long paddle over her knickers per stroke of the cane, painful enough on an already wealed bottom, but nothing like the protracted bare-bottom strapping Anne had received.
Finally Anne finished. The suspense in the room rose as Miss Norbert considered. One thing was for certain, the policy of whole class formal punishments was going to stop, as from her pre-registration staff meeting on Monday morning. Further, this present problem should never have happened. Better checks on the parental slips and perhaps even a few random phone-calls to parents might eliminate temptation on that front. However, that was not going to help her deal with Anne. Unsurprisingly she was staring down at the desk.
Eventually Miss Norbert spoke. “Anne, you no doubt realise that signing a note on your parents’ behalf is an extremely serious matter.”
Anne nodded; she looked to Miss Norbert to be on the verge of tears.
“One that leaves me with little option but the cane.”
Anne gave another, barely perceptible, nod.
Miss Norbert continued: “If this had been discovered when it should have been you would have received six of the best with my long junior cane. However, instead now you are not only a sixth former, but a prefect. This leaves me in a difficult position given the school rules, as I am sure you understand.”
Anne’s worst fear was realised. Miss Norbert was going to give her a ‘prefect’s caning’! It was explained to all new prefects that they were expected to set an example to all members of the school, and as a result if any of them ever merited a caning they would be made an example of. In addition to losing their prefect status they would receive the maximum permitted twelve strokes, with the special so-called ‘prefect’s cane’ which, while not much longer than the senior cane, was much denser. She remembered Miss Norbert passing her canes around as part of their induction last year in part to explain what sending a girl to see her as part of their prefect duties meant, as well as to remind them of their own responsibilities. The prefect’s cane was a wicked implement, both weighty and very supple. Finally a prefect’s caning was always ‘bare-bottom’, something normally reserved only for the most serious repeat offenders.
Anne wanted to protest, plead, beg, but she couldn’t do it. Instead she found herself fumbling with her lapel and numbly handing her badge over. “I am sorry to have let you down Miss,” she heard herself say. “Where shall I get myself ready?”
Miss Norbert was quite taken aback. She had not expected Anne to hand over her badge almost voluntarily, and pre-empt her instructions. “There is a hook over there to hang your things,” she said pointing to the wall. She then pointed to a straight-backed chair next to it. “That’s the chair I use, bring it back with you and bend over it. Let me know when you are ready.” Miss Norbert stood and turned to look out of her study window. When a girl was able to accept the situation like this then she liked to give her some semblance of privacy as she got ready for her caning.
Anne walked slowly over to the hook and hung her blazer on the peg. Taking her time she nervously put her hands to the side of her skirt and unzipped it. Kicking off her shoes she took it off and hung it up. Only her knickers to go. Taking a deep breath she put her thumbs in the elastic and slid the brief white panties down to her ankles, stepped out and tucked them into a blazer pocket. Dully she was glad it was still warm. Taking down the tights that sixth formers were entitled to wear would have been much worse, and she knew how hard it would have been to put them on again afterward.
Glad that her blouse still protected her modesty she grabbed the chair and moved it to the centre of the room. She could see Miss Norbert looking out the window as she turned it round. Anne finally grabbed the front tails of her blouse and tied them together on her waist to keep the back of it out of the way as she faced the chair back. Was she ready? Could she ever be ready? She thought of Tricia Evans last year, and the state she’d been in after losing her badge. A group of girls had persuaded Tricia to show them the damage in the toilets a day later. Tricia had reluctantly done so, probably motivated by a desperate desire to keep her friends, to show them she had been well punished. Tricia already knew that many of the girls considered what she had done to lose her badge contemptible. Anne had been impressed and appalled by the mess of bruised stripes that had decorated her behind. She had struggled to sit for days afterwards during lessons. Now it was to be her turn, at least she would have the weekend to get over the worst she thought.
Finally she bent over and grabbed the chair legs as low as she could. “I’m ready Miss,” she heard herself say. She still could not really believe this was really happening to her.
As Anne had been preparing, Miss Norbert had been reflecting on Anne’s behaviour compared to the two other occasions she’d caned prefects in the seven years she’d been head of St Joan’s. The first had been five years ago when two girls had had a serious fight over some boy who went to the neighbouring school. The other time had been Tricia Evans last year for stealing out of the ‘charity’ tuck shop which the prefects ran. All three girls had first pleaded to keep their badges, then begged for a more lenient punishment, and finally to keep their knickers on. Ultimately all of them had been threatened with expulsion before she finally had them bent over that chair. None of them had taken their punishment well, and all had been forced to come back two weeks later for a second dose of between six and eight strokes as a result. Miss Norbert had been exhausted and angry by the battle of wills involved in each case. The contrast between those “events” and this punishment, at least so far, could not be greater.
On hearing Anne she turned round and noted Anne’s rounded buttocks bent over the chair. The tan-line from the bikini she must have worn on holiday was clearly visible at the base of her buttocks and low on her waist, separating the pale pinky white flesh of her bottom from the golden skin around it. Turning, she opened the cupboard next to the window and looked at the four canes hanging by their crooks from the rail; two junior canes, one short for hand canings, the senior cane, and finally the much darker, heavy, so-called prefect’s cane. Miss Norbert picked it out and flexed it, as she considered her next move.
Anne heard click of the cupboard lock and from her inverted position could see the open cupboard door and Miss Norbert flexing the cane. She disappeared from view as she came round her desk but every footstep was a second closer to her dreaded punishment. The steps stopped behind her.
Anne was so tense she nearly jumped when the headmistress spoke. “Normally a prefect gets twelve of my very best, Anne,” she said. “But as I said before, your case is difficult. You did not commit your offence as a prefect, and you have I believe been both honest and not tried to avoid your punishment. Given that, I am going to give you six strokes. If you do not want extra then I expect you to stay down and not stand until I say so. Is that understood?”
“Yes Miss,” Anne replied. She felt a little relief at the prospect of ‘only’ six rather than the full twelve she’d been expecting. Then she felt the cane resting against her naked bottom. The moment had arrived. Anne closed her eyes tight and gripped the chair legs tightly she knew perfectly well that Miss Norbert was not bluffing when she said failure to stay put had only one consequence; extra strokes.
She felt the cane leave and then tap lightly again. Clearly Miss Norbert was going to take her time. The suspense was awful. Why could she not just get on with it? Finally their was a longer break in the tapping, then…
WHOOSH… CRACK. Anne almost shouted with the sound, and the release of tension in her. Then the pain hit home. She nearly stood up it was so intense. The shock of pain was incomparably worse than her memory of Mr Brenson’s efforts, and even the worst of the strappings from her father did not seem so bad as that one stroke. The pain just seemed to keep building as she gripped as tightly as she could to the chair legs. Anne was completely unaware of the light taps of the headmistress as she lined up the next stroke.
After about a minute it came. Anne heard the hum, then… CRACK, a second stripe branded her buttocks just below the first. Anne had resolved neither to cry nor shout out. But the pain, coupled with the humiliation and her disappointment, was too much. Tears had sprung unbidden to her eyes and dripped onto the leather chair seat below her face. At least she had not screamed, not yet at least.
There were now two neatly spaced lines just on the mid to upper half of Anne’s bottom. Miss Norbert generally worked down the target area. While she may have reduced the number of strokes, she certainly was not going to hold back on the intensity. Forging a note home was a serious matter and she was determined that Anne would not feel she had got off lightly. She started lining up the next stroke, a little below centre. Slowly she raised the cane and brought it down hard on Anne’s rump. CRACK!
Another gasp from Anne. She was mildly impressed with her control. Most girls she’d used this cane on, despite its nickname usually fifth formers and the rare sixth former who had made far too many visits to her office were screaming after one or two strokes. Miss Norbert waited about a minute again, watching as the mark darkened. She knew both the pain building up and the tension waiting would be awful.
WHOOSH… CRACK. Another, more anguished gasp. The fourth stroke landed slightly lower than she had intended. The head pondered. Normally for a ‘sixer’ she kept to parallel strikes, leaving diagonal, or ‘gate strokes’ as she liked to call them, for the rare punishment where eight or more were needed, but the position of that last stoke made it tempting to change her strategy. Finally she decided.
WHIZZZZ… CRRAACK… Aaagh! The stroke had been the hardest yet, and landing diagonally across the other four it had broken Anne’s resolve not to cry out. Miss Norbert always made sure the last two were the hardest, and that the last one in particular landed at that most painful area at the bottom of the buttocks here easily marked as a target by the line of her summer suntan. She noticed Anne was finally crying profusely, and was having great difficulty on keeping still over the chair. Miss Norbert watched for well over her normal minute as the gyrations calmed and finally lined up the sixth stroke at the crease of Anne’s buttocks.
Anne had finally broken. The strokes were so intensely painful and the last one had crossed the four others leaving what she thought was her entire bottom branded. Through her tears her only thought now was ‘last one’, ‘last one’. She desperately wanted to get up from this horrible chair. She never heard the WHIZZZZ of the final stroke, hearing only the final CRACK and what seemed like unbearable pain as it bit into the lowest part of her buttocks. She screamed again, and it was all she could do to keep hold of the chair. Surely it was over, wasn’t it? Why would Miss Norbert not tell her she could stand? Finally she heard the headmistress through the pain. She could stand up, but no rubbing her bottom, she was to put her hands on her head and go and stand in the corner of her office, while she wrote a note home to her parents.
Gingerly she stood up and hobbled over to the corner, clasping her hands tightly together in her hair to resist the overwhelming temptation to reach behind and explore the damage to her rear. Gradually the pain came down to something approaching a bearable level, but the tears would not yet stop. No longer a prefect, something she had been immensely proud of, as had her parents. Her parents, they would be furious. She’d lied to them, been caned (twice, including the one in third year) and as a result lost her badge. She knew that the strap would be out tonight and probably each night over the weekend. That prospect, coupled with the knowledge of how badly she’d let both herself and them down renewed her crying every time she thought of it.
Miss Norbert wrote her letter, then went out to briefly speak to her secretary. Anne did not dare move. The Head then got on with some work, to give the girl time to calm down fully. She had taken her punishment pretty well, she reflected as she glanced up occasionally at the ‘five-bar gate’ of marks she had inflicted. Finally, after about twenty minutes, she told Anne she could take her hands from her head and get dressed.
Anne dropped her hands to her rear and felt the weals on her poor bum. They were still of course very painful to touch. As she walked with short steps across to the hook she remembered to loosen the tails of her blouse giving her some modesty back. She grabbed her skirt first and pulled it up over her legs. Even the act of bending was painful. Although it was a loose pleat design she also had to take care easing it over her swollen bottom. She wondered of she could get away with leaving her knickers in her blazer pocket, but then in the pause.
“Put your knickers on too, school rules are very clear on that young lady,” called Miss Norbert.
It was almost as if she had been reading her mind, thought Anne. She pulled them out of her blazer pocket and slowly eased them up. Pulling them over her enlarged, bruised bottom was agony prompting a few extra tears in her eyes. She finally grabbed her blazer and turned to face the Head.
Her face was a complete mess, Miss Norbert thought, and she looked the complete picture of misery. Her hands were gently massaging her rear end. “Keep your hands by your side Anne,” she instructed. She noticed Anne grip the fabric of the skirt as she complied. “I’m sorry that was necessary Anne, but I’m afraid the passage of time does not mitigate a punishment when it is discovered. Now, as you may have guessed I was checking your file, with others, to decide on this year’s Head Girl.”
Anne nodded dumbly. She knew that, but she was now not even a prefect. This was like rubbing salt into the wound.
“It was the view of the senior staff and myself that you would have been the best candidate, until this problem was discovered. Even if your deceit had been dealt with in third year that would have been the case,” Miss Norbert continued.
Anne was nearly crying again; to be told how close she had been to being appointed Head Girl was so painful. Why was she doing this?
Miss Norbert ignored the renewed wetness in Anne’s rather red eyes as she carried on. “The senior staff therefore decided that, as you had not made your breach of school rules as a prefect, we should not consider that in making our choice and the final decision was left to me based on your behaviour today. If you had lied to me, or fussed excessively about the punishment, you would have probably got the full twelve and lost your badge. However, you both admitted the truth and took your medicine. Therefore I am going to offer you this, if you are prepared to accept the responsibilities it carries.”
She produced an open, small white box and pushed it across the desk. Inside was a silver badge with the words ‘Head Girl’ inscribed on it.
Anne could not believe it. She stared unbelievingly at it, not daring to touch it in case it was not real.
“If you are going to accept then you’d best put it on,” suggested the Head kindly. Anne tentatively pulled out the badge and clipped it on, then burst into tears again. The emotional rollercoaster of the last half hour or so had been far too much.
As she calmed down she heard Miss Norbert pointing to her private washroom to clean herself up, and then she would spend what was left of the school day with her, going through her duties.
Later, as she stood on the school bus home, Anne looked nervously at the envelope containing the letter to her parents. Miss Norbert had expressed the hope that her new badge might persuade them to go easy on her, but also (teasingly she thought) warned her of the consequences of not showing them it. She needn’t worry about that; this was one badge she was not going to risk no matter what was in store at home.