An Oxford student opts for extreme measures to salvage her relationship with her tutor. By a new writer to us.

By Neville Moore

Michelle placed her empty teacup on the floor and leaned confidentially towards her friend. “OK, let me get this straight, Angela,” she said. “You’re telling me Fergus is history – well, there’s a surprise, I don’t think. Seriously, Angie, anyone could see that coming a mile off. That guy was bad news from the word go. So if you’re not celebrating now, take it from me, you soon will be – good bloody riddance is the phrase that comes to mind. Point one. Point two. You have a tutorial with Kellers tomorrow afternoon, and you haven’t done the work. OK, that’s a problem. But really, get a grip, Angela: they’re not going to throw you out of Oxford for missing one tutorial. It’s hardly going to…”

“But I already missed two – I can’t afford to miss any more. Not to mention…” Angela hesitated.

“Not to mention what?”

“Oh, forget it.” Telling the other girl about all those additional meetings with her tutor that Angela had enjoyed pre-Fergus suddenly didn’t seem like such a good idea. She switched tack. “What do you think of Dr Keller?” She enquired in affected innocence.

Michelle sat back in the wide and accommodating brown leather armchair, settled her thick-rimmed NHS glasses more firmly on her nose, and pressed her fingertips together in an analytical pose. A plain, homely girl, she enjoyed a good gossip. “Hmm. That’s a tough one. I’ve heard one or two lasses call him a misogynist. As far as I can tell, though, that actually translates as ‘the bastard didn’t give me a pass on my crappy essay even when I fluttered my eyelashes and flashed him an acre of cleavage’. Well, you know the sort.”

Angela nodded. She did indeed.

“I haven’t actually got anything against him, really,” the other girl went on, with a hint of regret. “But then again, he isn’t my tutor. Why, what’s he been like with you?”

Angela looked at the thinly carpeted floor. “Oh, well, really, he’s been very… nice.”

Michelle smiled inscrutably at Angela’s visible embarrassment. Well, well, she thought. Who would’ve thought it. The Other Man in Angela’s convent-school-girl life, eh? This is turning into a very interesting meeting. “I see,” she said slowly. There was a short silence. ”Got any more tea?”

Angela waved at the teak sideboard, where she had left the kettle and teabags. Michelle stood up and padded over to help herself to a refill. “Well, if he’s so… nice,” she insisted, accenting the last word as much as she dared. “Then I don’t really see what the problem is. Just explain you’ve been busy with personal matters and ask if you can have the History tutorial later when you’ve got back into the swing.”

Angela continued staring blackly at the floor. Finally she said, quietly: “I told him to stuff Medieval Europe.”

“You did what?”

“Well, I didn’t. But that’s what Fergus wrote on my last essay, before he posted it. Actually he used a stronger word. He joked about it afterwards. He said I needed to learn to be self-assertive, and that was his way of helping me.”

“Oh, Lordie! And I bet even then you didn’t take him at his word, and tell Prince Charming to go and play with the traffic.”

“No,” Angela confessed.

“No, no, our Angela had to wait until she had iron-clad, first-hand evidence that her Fergus was banging half the female undergraduate population of Oxford, before finally deciding to give him the shove. Really, Angie: it’s time you grew up. Nothing wrong with a bit of rough, but for Pete’s sake, use that brain of yours. ‘Stuff Medieval Europe,’ was that? Umm. Can you spell inferiority complex?”

“All right, all right,” Angela began to feel unaccountably irritated at her companion’s worldly-wise pretensions. “No need to rub it in. But, well, what do I do now? Leo… Dr Keller must think I wrote that.”

“Well, not necessarily,” said Michelle, more thoughtfully, silently noting Angela’s tell-tale slip of the tongue. “If he knows you well, that is…”

Angela looked up sharply, but there was no trace of irony in Michelle’s neutral expression. “I suppose I can’t keep putting it off,” she reasoned aloud after a pause. “Sooner or later I’m just going to have to apologise.”

“Attagirl. That’s the ticket. First apologise, follow up with cock-and-bull story – we can work on that together, if you like – and then explain you need a few days to get your essay ready. In two weeks’ time, all this will never have happened. Umm… but just to be sure, you might want to get a few tests done at the local clinic. That’s assuming you and Fergus…”

“Michelle!”

“Oh, sorry sorry. I was forgetting. Angela Turnbull, ex-convent-school girl, pure as the driven snow. All right. Well, that makes it even easier, then, doesn’t it?”

* * *

When Michelle had gone, Angela sat for a while longer, staring at the books piled on the oak table by the window, in silent reproach at her recent abandonment of her studies. Fleetingly, she wondered if she could still have the essay, on medieval monasteries, done in time for the tutorial; all it would take was several pints of strong black coffee, working through the night and all through the next morning, skim-reading half the books on the reading list, and typing until her arm dropped off. Any other time, that would have been an option… but now? Just after breaking up with her first and only real boyfriend?

There was no point in deceiving herself. Already, the tears were welling up in her eyes. Getting to her feet, she approached the table, brushing the tears away angrily, picked up a fat sheaf of papers bound in clear plastic, and turned a couple of pages. “In addition, I would like to thank Angela Turnbull for her valuable assistance in researching some of the material in Chapter Twelve,” she read aloud. Then, after a pause, and raising her eyes to the ceiling, “In addition, I would like to thank the stupid, dumb, moronic Angela Turnbull for persuading herself that an unemployed Irish two-timer was the man of her dreams. That really helped a lot. Yep. Thanks, Angela!” She looked again at the untidily bound pile, laid it on the table again, and collapsed in the chair recently vacated by Michelle, convulsed in silent sobs.

Her companion’s advice had, after all, been worthless – since every ingenious excuse she had suggested was based on the assumption, which Angela dared not contradict, that Dr Keller knew nothing of the existence of Fergus. Whereas, in fact, only three days ago the tutor had seen Angela with her then boyfriend, walking arm in arm across the college quadrangle, and had affected not to notice Angela’s sudden confusion, her flustered attempt at a change of direction, Fergus’s slow, dumb realization that in spite of the other man’s age he was looking at a possible rival, and his ostentatious pawing of Angela, a cocky assertion of ownership intended to be read as: “Tough luck, pal, she’s mine, see?”

Which meant that there was nothing for it but to tell the truth; that the stupid insult on her last essay had been scrawled by a short-lived boyfriend who was now an ex. What was harder to explain was her delay in coming to make the apology. She supposed she would just have to confess she was a coward. But even if Dr Keller accepted her apology, as she supposed he might, it was hardly likely that there would ever again be that warmth she had previously enjoyed with the older man who was not only her Medieval History tutor, but also – as she was coming to realize more and more clearly – a father figure, and something unconfessably more than that. Her adored Professor would now see her only as a foolish, immature, empty-headed twenty-year-old girl – not as the willing unpaid research assistant, the admiring and appreciative audience for his latest journal submission, the contributor to his latest book, the potential soul mate she had once imagined herself to be for the solitary widower.

“You blew it,” Angela said aloud to herself. “Angela Turnbull, you had it all and you just went and blew it.”

And what made it all so much worse was that Angela had never been very confident in her relations with men. From her father – an Army brigadier who had died when she was only ten – she had inherited her tall build and large-boned frame, which had led to her being described by her games mistress at school as “rangy” – a word she guessed, from the curl of the lip which accompanied it, referred not only to her height but also to her clumsiness and lack of coordination, which at that time had been painfully evident both on and off the hockey field.

By her mid-teens, she had discovered that most boys did not like girls taller than themselves, and that her height – nearly six foot – reduced the field of available partners to a small fraction of what it might otherwise have been. Moreover, although she was wide-hipped and had her full quota of feminine curves, her self-consciousness about her height meant she could never bring herself to dress seductively; her preferred attire was a loose knee-length skirt and a bulky roll-top sweater, and her small circle of friends at University had fastened on this as evidence that Angela’s eternal destiny was to be the stereotypical ex-convent-school wallflower. Which, she knew, was why she had practically dived into the arms of the first young man at Oxford who had, possibly out of mere boredom, made a play for her…. a short, stormy relationship that had not survived the discovery that the stocky, smooth-talking, pot-smoking Irishman changed his female partners somewhat more often than he changed his socks. What a contrast with the quietly confident, intellectually brilliant, tall and imposing Professor! What a fool she had been!

Not for the first time, Angela decided that she hated the self-effacing, clumsy, disaster-prone convent-school girl she seemed destined to be eternally. Eternally? She repeated to herself. We’ll see about that. Hardly thinking what she was doing, she stumbled to the tiny bedroom that adjoined the large and luxurious study that the college had provided for her. Just through the door and on the right, opposite the bed, was a small, spartan wardrobe, clearly not designed for a female (the college had only recently gone mixed). She opened it impatiently and, after rummaging for a minute, yanked out the black miniskirt that her longsuffering mother had once vainly tried to talk her into wearing as part of her matriculation subfusc (it was actually a hand-me-down from a glamorous cousin). “Go on, Ange, love, it’s only for one day!” She held it up against herself. It’s indecent, she thought. Perfect. Next came the white low-cut top that she had once bought for an interview and later bitterly regretted wearing, after discovering too late how little of the underlying topography it left to the imagination. She stood in front of the mirror and held it up. Smiling bravely through the tears, she murmured: “Stuff Medieval History. Leo’s in for the surprise of his life tomorrow.”

She mentally made a date for herself the next morning at the hairdresser’s. If she was going to do this, it had to be done properly. Exactly what “this” was, was an idea still vague and slowly taking shape in her mind. On an impulse, she hitched up her skirt, then turned and looked over her shoulder at the mirror. What she saw was a wide expanse of generous behind, encased in dull white cotton, artistically framed by the rumpled top and falling sides of her skirt.

She reached around and gave herself a sharp pat. Yes, Angela, I’m afraid you are going to have to take a punishment. You have offended me, and I demand justice. She closed her eyes. Yes, yes, yes! After all the heartache of these last two days, this particular daydream was too good not to indulge to the full…

* * *

Dr Leopold Keller was sitting in his study, leafing thoughtfully through the European Journal of Medieval Studies, when a familiar timid knock at the door announced the arrival of his student and erstwhile protegée Angela Turnbull. He grimaced as if at a sudden twinge of toothache.

“Come in,” he called out, “it’s open.” He did not move or look round as the door opened slowly behind him. “Miss Turnbull? What an unexpected pleasure. Please do come and take a seat.” He affected to go on reading the journal as, after some clumsy fiddling with the door catch, the visitor’s feet clacked, a trifle oddly, past his chair, and the unseen presence seated herself gingerly in the deep, high-backed armchair opposite his.

“Good afternoon… Dr Keller,” came a soft, timid, unwontedly seductive voice. He looked up in surprise, and could not suppress a “What the…?” as the sight of his transformed student greeted him. She sat motionless and smiled nervously back at him as he took in the new hairdo, the vampish makeup, the low-cut blouse, the tight miniskirt, the sheer stockings, the precarious heels, the sensuous perfume that was just beginning to fill the room.

Angela, you fool, what has that monkey done to you? He wanted to cry out… but he said nothing. With difficulty, he forced his gaze to double back quickly from the inviting depths of her cleavage to the safety of the journal. Ostentatiously, after a pregnant pause, he looked at his watch, and gave a loud sigh. “OK. We’d better start, I suppose. What, if anything, have you got for me today, Miss Turnbull?” The sour note in his voice had intensified markedly. He was, he realized, jealous. Insanely jealous of whomever this meretricious get-up was intended to impress.

There was a short silence. “Me,” said Angela, simply.

“Meaning?”

“I don’t have an essay. With or without fatuous comments scrawled by a – by a third party. Which I take full responsibility for, sir. It won’t happen again, I can assure you, but it happened, and it’s my fault, I know that. So…” Angela hesitated, and swallowed hard. “So, Dr Keller, I’ve really just come for my punishment.”

“Your punishment?” The professor repeated. There wasn’t much that could halt the flow of Leopold Keller’s sardonic wit, but right now he found himself entirely at a loss for words. A short silence followed. “You want me to punish you?”

All sorts of fascinating images were forming in the silver-haired don’s feverish mind, unbidden. He warned himself against wishful thinking, against saying anything that might reveal the lurid direction his thoughts had instantly taken. No, no, she can’t possibly mean anything like that. Ridiculous, impossible. But what does she mean?

Angela contemplated her shoes, fidgeted, then looked up and caught the professor’s eye.

“Dr Keller… Leo… if you want, you can punish me by just treating me like any one of your other dim girl students, from now on. Just shut me out of your life, and your work. After how things used to be, that would be the worst punishment of all. One which I totally deserve, I do accept that. Or else… or else if you want to be kind to me, you could use these instead.” She leaned sideways, reached into her bag and pulled out, first a leather belt which she uncoiled and draped carefully over the arm of her chair, then a large bedroom slipper with a tartan pattern, then a short bamboo cane of the sort often sold in clumps as chic living-room adornments.

Dr Keller gulped and swallowed.

“You want me to… to chastise you, corporally? Is that the idea?”

“If you feel I deserve it, sir, yes.”

The professor looked at the belt trailing from the arm of Angela’s chair. The temptation was almost too great. But – the thought flashed through his mind – his whole career was at stake here. Everything. What would this look like on the front of the tabloids? Avoiding Angela’s dangerous gaze, he forced himself to stare fixedly at the floor, and said slowly: “Miss Turnbull. This is a university, not an infants’ school. You are twenty years old – an adult.” His voice trailed off.

“I checked. Dr Guzman downstairs has left. The porter says he won’t be back until tomorrow, probably. There’s no one in upstairs. You have the whole staircase to yourself, Leo. And the students in the next staircase are having a party. No one will hear… anything.”

Angela waited patiently, watching as the implications of this last assurance sank into the professor’s mind. She felt a vague sense of compassion as she saw the older man wipe the sweat from his hands on to the arms of his chair. Men, she thought, are not very good at concealing their inner struggles. She hesitated, then added softly, sweetly: “I do deserve it, sir, don’t I?”

Dr Keller looked up. “Yes, Angela, actually you do. I’m glad you understand that. You see, I am in the rather invidious position here of being, shall we say, in loco parentis. Which wouldn’t matter if you behaved consistently like the adult you supposedly are, but, well, I think we both agree that on this occasion your behaviour scarcely qualifies as grown-up.”

“No, sir, it doesn’t.” Angela’s heart leapt as she heard the professor use her first name, at last.

“Why, Angela?” Dr Keller could not resist putting the plaintive question to her.

“Because we didn’t think of this sooner?”

“By ‘this’ you mean…?”

Angela stood up, picked up the slipper and handed it to the don. “Where do you want me?”

The professor gaped, hesitated, turned his head towards the door, and made as if to stand up.

“I’ve locked the door,” said Angela quietly.

The professor smiled, and shook his head incredulously. She really had planned this down to the smallest detail. She, who was supposedly the “victim”. This was not at all the way such things were supposed to happen.

“All right, Angela. Across my knee.”

Angela stood looking down at him. Her face glowed. “Thank you, sir!” She carefully lowered herself over her tutor’s knees, wishing she was not quite so tall and heavy.

“You might not wish to thank me, later on,” Dr Keller remarked as he adjusted, with difficulty, the position of his legs. “You see, Miss Turnbull, I am still not quite convinced this is not all just a game for you. But understand that it is not a game for me. For me, your punishment will provide, while unsought-for, a very welcome catharsis. You see…” he hesitated for a moment, continuing his slow, reverential smoothing of Angela’s creased skirt, before completing his confession. “… it is not at all gratifying when the woman you trusted, and confided in, suddenly starts to behave like un ungrateful, spoiled brat. It feels not unlike a blow to the stomach, delivered by the hooves of a mule. Are you following me?”

“Yes, sir. Perfectly.” Came a slightly breathless voice from somewhere near his feet.

“I’m saying that while I have very little practice at this sort of thing, I fully intend to do my best to make sure that it hurts, just as – just as you have hurt me.”

“I understand, sir.”

“Good. Then we may proceed.”

The professor grasped the slipper in his right hand, and delivered a tentative whack to the back of Angela’s short skirt. He paused to gauge her reaction. Nothing, not a sound, not even a quiver. Perhaps it had been too gentle. Or perhaps he needed to just carry on quite a while longer before the cumulative effect of the punishment started to register. He felt vaguely foolish, self-conscious, inexperienced, and had to suppress the sudden urge to ask her: “was that all right?”

Clearing his throat, in preparation for whatever pearls of disciplinary wisdom might later occur to him, he grasped the slipper tighter, and began a slow, steady, methodical succession of moderate whacks delivered to alternate buttocks. His student responded only with tiny, almost imperceptible movements, as if she were relaxing and making herself comfortable. If this was actually hurting, she gave no sign of it.

He carried on for a minute or two longer, then paused as he heard her draw breath. “Leo…” came a small voice from somewhere down near the floor.

“Yes, Angela?”

“Fuck Medieval Europe.”

The professor smiled. A more brazen invitation to lay it on hard would have been impossible. After a moment’s reflection, he decided to take the bull by the horns… or rather, to take Turnbull by the hems. He inserted his fingers under the sides of her skimpy skirt and carefully slid the hemline up over the small of her back, listening for a reaction, half-expecting an explosion of protest.

Angela shuddered, feeling the cheeks of her wide bottom exposed – at last! – to the professor’s hungry gaze. The knickers she was wearing were the briefest she had been able to locate that morning in Marks and Spencer. They were certainly not designed to offer any protection, or indeed to leave anything much to the imagination. She allowed herself the tiniest whimper.

Dr Keller saw immediately that, so far, he had done little more than just warm her up. He felt he ought to say something.

“Miss Turnbull.”

“Yes?”

“You are quite right. We should have started doing this before.”

“I know.”

“However, all is not lost. I expect we can make this a regular part of your tuition, from now on. When the occasion calls for it, of course.”

A sly, provocative little wiggle of the hips communicated Angela’s reaction to this proposal. The tutor half-smiled, sighed, and muttered under his breath, in a comically exasperated tone: “Girls!” He grasped the slipper more firmly than before, and raised it high.

“Oh!” The tone of Angela’s spontaneous response to the whack sounded genuinely surprised. As, indeed, she was. Her mother had never spanked her, and she had offered herself for punishment with little idea of the degree of discomfort that might be involved. Wow. With no skirt protecting her, now, this actually did hurt! “Oh!” – again. “Oowah!” “Ow!” “Ouch!” “Oh God… Ow. Ow. OW!”

“Miss Turnbull,” said the tutor in amused tones, pausing and straightening his knuckles. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks. We’ve hardly even started.”

“It hurts!”

“Did you expect it not to?”

“No, of course, but…”

“You’ve had enough, already?”

Angela considered for a moment, resisting with difficulty the urge to lift one of her hands from the floor and give herself a soothing rub. “I trust you, sir,” she said finally. “It hurts like hell already, but I suppose it’s not for me to decide how much I need.”

“Quite so,” the professor murmured. “Shall we proceed, then?”

Angela tossed her head. “Just as long as you… Oh. Ow. Ooh. Ouch. Oh, please… Ow. OW! Oh Chr… OW! Leo, this hurts… OW! OW! Mmf. Mm. AAGH! Oh God, not there… Oh… Owowoww!”

“Angela,” the professor said reprovingly. “You needn’t make it sound as if I am torturing you… although I admit that I find your improvised vocal accompaniment quite diverting.”

“You are torturing me,” wailed a bitter voice from the floor. “Leo, that thing bites.”

“I’m glad it’s having some effect on you, young lady,” replied the tutor, adopting a fleetingly pompous tone. “Now then, while we seem to be having this intimate moment here, there’s something I was meaning to enquire of you.” Dr Keller suddenly felt foolish, but the question tormented him, and needed asking. He stroked the target area with his fingertips, in a way he tried to make casual. “That young man I saw you with the other day… is he?”

Ex young man,” said Angela immediately. “A stupid mistake.”

“You know, Angela,” said the professor thoughtfully, relaxing his grip on her waist. “Contrary to what fond parents and assiduous schoolmasters once believed, or hoped, corporal chastisement does not cure stupidity. However, I flatter myself I know you well enough to assert, against the evidence, that you are not stupid. You are merely very… how shall I put it…”

“Immature?” Suggested Angela in a quavering voice, welcoming the conversational break to get a grip on herself. Her bottom was still throbbing in silent protest at the indignities it had just received.

“Immature will do. I was going to say female,” chuckled Dr Keller, giving Angela’s left buttock an arch little squeeze. “Which, ahem, leads to my next question, which I have absolutely no right to ask.”

“No, sir, we didn’t. I mean… I didn’t.”

“Good,” murmured the professor in audible relief. “It would have been such a waste.” He paused, continuing his gentle caresses of Angela’s generous, now slightly glowing, buttocks, and feeling he had probably said, and revealed, a little too much. “So let’s return to the subject that interests us both – Medieval European history.”

“Stuff it.”

“Your considered verdict?” Dr Keller chuckled.

Silence.

“Fair enough.”

“Ah… ah… Ouch. Mm. Ow… OW. OW! Please… OWW! Oh shit. OW! This is… ouch. Oww. Dr K- Ow. Ow. Ow. Aagh! Oh no – Aagh!”

As Angela’s buttocks bounced and quivered under the rain of blows, the professor found himself musing on a question which had never occurred to him until now – how many of his other girl students might benefit from the disciplinary treatment his star pupil, Angela, was now noisily receiving?

That Ingrid Blomkvist, for instance. There was an obvious candidate; always late, always pathetically unprepared, always simpering, always asking stupid and irrelevant questions. Or Jane Sullivan. Admittedly, his list of complaints against the latter scholar wasn’t so extensive, and – on reflection – consisted mainly of the fact that the clinging leggings which the demure, petite blonde persisted in wearing to tutorials advertised a derriere that was mesmerizing in its exuberance (“The book in question is there on the shelf, Miss Sullivan, if you just look for it”).

It was indeed regrettable that the College and University rules failed to make provision for regular over-the-knee spankings as a normal part of academic tuition in the case of well-endowed female students. He felt sure that this would be put right in a future, more enlightened time, which, alas, at his age he was unlikely to see come about. So, he thought, let’s make the most of what we have here.

“Owowow! Ow! Ow! OWW!” The tall, distressed girl was now writhing on his lap, vainly trying to protect her right buttock with a convulsively trembling hand. He stopped for a moment, and heard a sob.

“Can I infer from your musical vocal accompaniment that your attention is entirely taken up with this, what I suppose modern jargon would call ‘learning experience’?”

“Yes, sir,” Angela sobbed. “Leo…”

“Yes, Angela?”

“Please.”

“Please what?”

“Please?” Her voice was now a tearful squeak.

“All right. Let’s move on to the next part, then, shall we?” Her tutor said brightly. He spread his feet out in front of him so that the tall girl could lift herself clumsily off his lap. Slowly, and betraying visible discomfort, she knelt and then stood up. Her hands disappeared behind her. The tutor, in turn, smoothing down the front of his shirt and trousers, rose to his feet. “The next part,” he repeated, portentously, looking her in the eye with a slight smile.

“What next part?” Angela was trembling. Her eyes followed his hands.

“Miss Turnbull, on arriving here you made me an impromptu present of a slipper, a belt, and what appears to be a rod fashioned of rather brittle bamboo. I assume all these were intended to be used to the same purpose, one easily divined by any competent History scholar. Am I mistaken?”

Angela hung her head. “No, but… but well, to be honest I didn’t know…”

“You didn’t know how persuasive any of these could be, when used alone? Well, I can quite believe that. I assume you were never… physically chastised, at home?” Dr Keller was now standing in front of her, pensively stroking the belt he now held in his left hand. His voice was kindly.

“Not since I was a little girl.” Angela admitted in a squeaky voice, still busily massaging her smarting rear.

“By your father, before he died. Of course; an officer of the Queen, naturally he would have used corporal discipline. A part of growing up which you have had occasion to miss, many times, since then.”

“I suppose so.”

The professor hesitated, feeling a slight twinge of conscience. “Miss Turnbull, I’ll be frank with you. Giving your utterly delectable hindquarters a good ten-minute whacking is the most enjoyable thing I’ve done, I think, in years. Enjoyable, and I think, quite fitting and justified, given recent circumstances. While, as I say, the benefits of corporal punishment on children tend to be wildly exaggerated by its proponents, the same punishment administered to an adult female by a man, especially an older man, has, I believe, a quite different purpose and connotation. It lays out part of the basis and terms for a relationship. Not, to be sure, a relationship of morbid and pedantic reciprocity, such as the feminists aspire to impose on us. But still, a relationship. Now that these terms have, I think, been sufficiently clarified, I want you to consider whether the relationship itself is something you are interested in pursuing. You will not be at all to blame if you decide that this is not what you wanted. As we know, making mistakes is a feminine prerogative.”

Angela remained silent, apart from the sobs. “Leo…,” she said eventually.

“Yes, Angela?”

“Hug me?”

He did so, more than willingly. The young but promising History student rested her head on his shoulder. “Why,” she breathed through the tears, “does everything have to be so complicated?”

“It’s called sex, Angela. A very complex branch of chemistry. It makes the reactions between men and women, where they occur, adopt some very curious forms.”

“You don’t want to make me cry any more?”

“Well, Angela, actually, I rather think I do.” Dr Keller disengaged himself from his student’s embrace and took a step back.

“Why?” she said plaintively, as she felt him take her arm firmly and twist her around. She complied passively, letting him take a good look at the damage wrought on her tender backside, hoping that this would dissuade him from any further measures.

“Because, given the kind of relationship we have, and the strictures surrounding it, it makes me feel that, whatever you may get up to in my absence, I have full ownership of you,” came the voice from behind her. “As to why I should wish to feel anything so unfashionable, for now I shall leave it to your own exceptional intelligence to supply the answer.”

Angela thought, as her tutor surveyed her bruised and, no doubt, glowing red derriere: ‘there are other ways you could have me, my love. Haven’t you considered those? There are other ways…’

“All right, Dr Keller,” she said quietly to the floor, then looked round, half-turning, and caught his eye. “Where…?” The History don, who was already doubling the belt into a fearsome-looking loop, glanced towards the high-backed armchair.

Taking her hands away from where they seemed to want to remain, she stepped lightly towards the wide, accommodating chair; the chair that symbolized a lifetime devoted to the quiet heroism of academic endeavour, and stooped, grasping the back – and her future – firmly with both hands…

* * *

“Angie, you sly cow, how come you never mentioned this?” Michelle burst through the half-opened door of her friend’s study, waving a bulky hardback volume in her left hand. Angela Turnbull stepped back to let the curly-haired, bespectacled tornado pass by her and make a bee-line for the cabinet where the kettle and teabags were kept. “Talk about a dark horse! I thought we were supposed to be mates, or something? Well?”

“I was going to tell you,” smiled Angela. “I didn’t think the book was even out yet.”

Having fumblingly plugged in the kettle, Michelle collapsed breathlessly into her usual chair, and opened the book. “Advance copy, the Bod. All over the college, in case you didn’t know. All right. Here we are. ‘A special thank you’ – a special thank you, not any old thank you, no sir, a special one – ‘is due to Angela Turnbull, for her contribution to the original research underpinning Chapter Twelve. Her assistance in laying bare the foundations of Medieval Europe has been most invaluable.’ Well?”

“Well what?”

“Come on. What exactly have you been laying bare for old Kellers, Angela dearest?”

“Oh, it’s just an expression.” Angela turned away to the window, to conceal her grin from her inquisitive companion.

Michelle peered suspiciously up at her. “Angie?”

“What?”

“You would tell me, wouldn’t you?”

“There’s nothing to tell. I helped him with some research, that’s all.”

Michelle closed the book and glanced over to the cabinet, where the kettle was beginning to bubble. Well, perhaps it’s the truth, she thought, frowning in disappointment as she stood up in preparation for the tea-making ritual. I suppose it’s just about possible. After all – she said to herself, noting with compassion the frumpy, deeply unfashionable and unfeminine tartan bedroom slippers that lay next to Angela’s chair, one of which was rather absurdly tied around with bright pink ribbon knotted in a bow – let’s face it, Mata Hari this lass definitely is not. Once a convent-school girl, always a convent-school girl.

THE END