Kicking the Habit VII: One Puff

The next in the series, and two girls experience the results of smoking in school

By Joanna Jones

Seventh in a series of stories where painful experiences, coupled with potentially worse sanctions in the future, lead to girls getting the impetus to give up tobacco, though in this case it is only partially successful.

Have I ever smoked in my life?

Well technically the answer must be yes, I suppose. I have in my entire life taken exactly one drag on a cigarette.

That drag was taken behind the bike shed (hardly novel but it was one of the places where those that smoked would go) in my girls’ grammar school. That single puff of tobacco led to ‘consequences’. Consequences that I recall here.

It was a pleasant late autumn day in my upper sixth, and four of us decided to spend the interval outside rather than in the common room. The main reason was that Elsie wanted a cigarette. Apparently her Biology class had been rather intense, so she said. To be fair she had a dissection to do, and that was something she was somewhat squeamish about despite otherwise enjoying the subject.

Soon we were all leaning behind the shed gossiping as she lit up. After a few drags she said: “So, can I tempt you then? Fancy a try?” Then she held it out.

Both Jan and Angela replied that they had tried it before, not particularly liked it and were not bothered.

“What about you, Denise? Have you ever tried it?” Elsie asked.

Flustered, I answered that I too wasn’t really bothered.

Jan then asked: “So, have you ever tried a cig?”

I wish now I had lied, but then I reluctantly admitted never to having done so.

Elsie was scandalised as she took another drag then offered it to me again. “You should at least have a go, Denise, at least find out what you feel for yourself. I find it quite therapeutic, relaxing even.”

I suspect now those were emotions related to her being already mildly addicted rather than anything else. However, the other two seemed to be egging me on so, after a bit of banter, despite my reluctance I eventually took the cigarette, put it in my mouth and breathed in.

Seconds later I had coughed a fair bit as I returned it to Elsie, with all three girls laughing.

Those laughs stopped abruptly moments later as the rather different cough of Mrs Thomson interrupted us. Elsie quickly stubbed out the cigarette, but it was, of course far, far too late.

“Janice, Angela, I presume you were not smoking then.”

Both shook their heads.

“Very well. Right Elsie Symonds, Denise Overton, you two had better follow me.”

My two friends looked sympathetically at me as they watched Elsie and I reluctantly walk after the teacher.

As Mrs Thomson did so she turned and looked at me. “I am surprised at you, Denise, I never thought you would be one to smoke.”

“It was the first time; it was just to try it out.” I replied lamely.

She looked at me a bit more seriously. “I am sorry you felt the need to do so, and I am afraid you too will probably be rather sorry soon.”

I looked rather desperately at her at that comment. However, as I started to take a breath she interrupted me.

“No Denise, don’t ask. First time or not, you know the rules. I have no option but to take you both to see Mrs Jenkins.”

I felt my stomach sink to my shoes. Mrs Jenkins was the deputy Head.

Elsie smoked a lot, whereas none of the rest of my clique did. She had, as a result, visited the deputy Headmistress’s office on more than one occasion, and on each of those occasions received the inevitable whacking that smoking entailed.

I had a horrible feeling that one puff on a cigarette was not going to be my only ‘first experience’ of that day.

As we followed the teacher, Elsie took the opportunity to mouth ‘Sorry’ at me.

I shrugged. What was there to say? She may have persuaded, but I’d accepted that persuasion. It was bad luck, just very bad luck.

Pupil discipline was the territory of the Deputy at our school, so we were soon outside her office. However, we experienced that small relief, that hope of a reprieve as her door was not answered. She was out.

Mrs Thomson escorted us the few steps back to the reception to make enquiries.

“I am sorry, Mrs Jenkins is out this afternoon,” the secretary said. “You’ll need to take them to the Headmistress.”

My stomach lurched as I overheard that comment. Miss Carlow, our Headmistress, was a rather upper class self-confident woman. Our (possibly entirely wrong) impression of her was that she tried not to soil her hands with such sordid matters as disciplining her charges.

The trouble was, when she did have to she was much less sympathetic than her Deputy, both in her award of a punishment, and in its implementation.

Whatever the case, the two of us were deposited in her office after she had a brief conversation with Mrs Thomson. We were first set facing the wall in her office as she decided to retrieve our files.

Neither of us risked talking as we waited. There was little to say anyway.

Finally, after a couple more minutes for me to regret having ever touched that cigarette, she returned.

“Right you two, over here!” She demanded.

We crept slowly across and faced her as she sat. Oddly, what struck me was her neatly coiffured brown (dyed) hair which was very fashionably styled, a far cry from most of the teachers’ functional arrangements. She was in her late fifties, but you would not have guessed it, blessed as she was with an elegant tall figure, youthful face and wearing clothes that enhanced that. She was no frumpy old spinster. There were actually various rumours about her and one of the other younger single (female) teachers in the school, but whether they had any basis in fact or were entirely scandalous salacious schoolgirl gossip I will never know.

We spent what seemed an age standing nervously like the two errant young ladies, no doubt in her view, we were as she perused our files.

Finally she looked up at us. “So, Elsie Fleming, the second time smoking this year already, in addition to those of last year. What does it take to persuade you to abide by school rules?”

There was a pregnant pause. A battle of wills to see who would capitulate and speak first. Of course it was Miss Carlow that was holding all the cards.

“I am not sure, Miss.” Elsie eventually muttered.

The Head arched her eyebrows at her then turned her gaze on me.

“Denise Overton. I am disappointed to see you here, with such a good record. Till today.”

Another lurch in my stomach as her displeasure washed over me.

“So, since when did you decide to start smoking?”

“I don’t, well didn’t decide to start miss, I was just trying it out.” I remember being, and sounding very flustered.

Elsie took a risk and plunged in to help me. “It was her first puff ever, miss. I persuaded her, suggested she try it to see what it was like.”

Once again the Head gave her eloquent arch of her eyebrows as she took her time to gaze at Elsie.

Finally my friend quailed and gazed down at her feet.

Only then did the Miss Carlow return her attention to me, sure that Elsie Fleming would not be interrupting her interview again.

“So it was an experiment, was it then? Curiosity got the better of you?”

“I suppose so, miss.” I replied rather reluctantly.

“And tell me Miss Overton, did you enjoy the experience?” She asked in her plummy voice.

“Not really, Miss.” I replied earnestly.

“So, Denise, I can assume after over six years in this school you know what the consequences of smoking here are?”

I bit my lip. I was sure if I didn’t the tears would have started there and then. Elsie told me that my hands subconsciously shifted from clasped in front to gently rubbing and clutching them together as I whispered: “Yes, miss.”

She looked at me. “So then you know that I am afraid I am going to have to satisfy your curiosity on another matter.”

I raised my eyebrows and opened my mouth in denial but she overrode me.

“Oh come, come. All girls are curious about it, even if most do not generally desire to satisfy that curiosity.”

As I subsided she continued. “I am sorry to say, like your claims about smoking, it is not something I expect you to enjoy.”

With that she stood and went to the corner of the room, behind us near the door. At the base of a coatstand, part covered by a raincoat and a fashionable woollen overcoat, were a couple of umbrellas and a few crook handled canes.

She withdrew a shorter thinner one, and a three foot long one that was significantly thicker.

She smiled wickedly at Elsie as she returned and put the longer rod on the desk, “I will be using this to deal with you shortly, Miss Fleming. Perhaps it will be enough to dissuade you from associating the school with your unfortunate habit.”

I do not recall what reaction Elsie gave or made. My mind was lost in a different world of anticipation as she then turned to me, giving me a disturbingly calm look, one that somehow clearly indicated not to even think of pleading for mercy. “Right, Overton, are you right handed?”

“Yes, miss.” I replied hoarsely.

Another eloquent rise of her eyebrows as she nodded at my left hand.

Slowly I raised it up and out from my body and, knowing the protocol, my right hand rose to support it, lightly gripping the wrist of the left. I was now literally quaking.

Taking my fingers the Head raised the target hand slightly, adjusting it to the position she wanted. “Thank you Miss Overton,” she said. It seemed almost bizarre for her to thank me at that moment.

However, those thoughts were terminated as suddenly there was a high whistle and the cane cleaved itself across my palm.

Up until that moment I had determined to accept the inevitable with stoicism and dignity. I was not a baby first year, but an upper sixth year, an adult, already eighteen. However, in one brief second of violence, that was forgotten. I screeched and found my eyes wet, immediately waving my hand around to try to stop the terrible pain. How could it hurt so much, I wondered.

Slowly I put my palm out again with my right hand shaking as it returned to support it once more.

Another high pitched whistle and the thwick as a second pair of tramlines appeared.

Another scream was emitted. This time I did not just wave my hand around, but also clamped it under my arm.

“Come on, Overton, one more to go, hand out.”

I looked miserably at the Head. Mrs Jenkins was reputed to usually give two for a first offence, but clearly Miss Carlow felt I required another. Thus, tears streaming down my cheeks, I very reluctantly raised the palm into her desired position again, then squeezed my eyes shut as tightly as I could.

Moments later my hand endured the final swish of agony and I was sobbing with my hand alternatively waving around, then being clamped between my skirt as I bent double, trying anything that might conceivably reduce the pain.

Miss Carlow waited a minute or so for me to get a modicum of control then said: “Here, it is over Denise,” as she passed me a couple of tissues.

As I sobbed and sniffed she said: “Well I hope, Denise, your second new experience of the day might be one that will put you off ever wanting to experiment once more with the first.”

“Y,yes Miss.” I sniffed miserably, still of course cradling my poor left hand.

“Well I have a final experience for you,” she said as she picked up the other cane. “Just in case you are ever tempted to experiment with tobacco at school again.”

“Oh please miss!” I begged thinking she was not yet finished with me.

“No, your caning is over,” she replied. “No, what I want you to do is stand there and watch very carefully as I give Elsie Fleming her punishment, for if you are ever in here again that is what you too will experience; six of my best, with a senior cane. Now don’t close your eyes!”

I nodded fearfully as I moved to stand where she pointed, further back from her desk, then she turned to face my very pensive friend.

“So Fleming, if Denise comes back here it will be the usual six of the best. However, I think we should take into account your earlier admission of culpability here, don’t you?”

Through my still glazed eyes, despite my efforts with the tissue, I could see Elsie shift nervously as she stammered: “M,miss?”

“I am going to give you one extra this time, to make seven. Now you’d better show Miss Overton how to prepare.”

I watched as Elsie took off her blazer, then was shocked as she undid the clasp of her sixth form skirt. Resignedly, she slipped it off and placed it with her blazer on the corner of the Head’s desk.

Her slip quickly followed and then she was standing in her tights and blouse.

I am sure she gave a small plea-like look to Miss Carlow, which was met with another of her trademark eyebrow motions.

Whatever the case, moments later her tights were around her knees.

I had heard rumours that when the Head did bottoms it was one layer, but I had never really believed it. Mrs Jenkins apparently normally just did a bottom caning over a skirt, or roughly yanked it up and whacked her victim’s slip if she was more angry.

I later found out that this was Elsie’s second visit to the Head, so she had known what to expect.

Meanwhile, Elsie had now resignedly bent over and grabbed the other side of the Miss Carlow’s desk.

I could see her thin white knickers now, half visible under her blouse.

Half visible was not good enough for Miss Carlow. She stepped forward and pulled the blouse up onto the small of her back, exposing the entirety of her pants.

Then I gasped.

Miss Carlow put her hands on the waistband of those white panties.

For a moment I thought she was going to pull them down, but instead she yanked them up, clearly trying to expose as much bottom flesh as possible.

Denise wriggled in discomfort and gave a low moan.

“Right, Denise, I want you to pay particular attention to the marks this cane makes on young Fleming’s posterior. Personally, I doubt it will make any difference as to whether she ends up here again, given she seems unable to control herself. However, in your case I hope observing this will act as a further deterrent.”

There was another involuntary moan from poor Elsie at that pronouncement.

Miss Carlow then turned and took her stance to Elsie’s left, then gently lined the cane up across the upper part of Elsie’s rather round bottom.

At least for Elsie she had the very minor consolation that her knickers still covered that part of the target.

I have to admit watching almost mesmerised as the cane was drawn back. Then suddenly it was launched into Elsie’s waiting bottom.

It is difficult to describe simply so much that happened in such a brief instant. There was the tight set grimace of Miss Carlow, the fluid twist of her body as she swung, the humm of the rod cutting the air, the neat flick of her wrist at the right moment, and of course the thwack as it made its unwelcome arrival on poor Elsie’s knickers.

Then there was the convulsion that racked Elsie’s body and a shriek as the cut was felt.

I felt sick watching it, and very relieved I was not joining my friend in experiencing this tribulation.

Miss Carlow looked at me rather stonily. “Paying attention Miss Overton?”

“Y.yes miss.” I nodded

The second blow also was high enough to land on white cotton, not that the thin garment made a ha’penny’s worth of difference, I suspected.

The third was the first to land on some bare flesh. I watched, appalled, as Elsie, clearly holding on desperately, jerked against the table as a red line appeared under the edge of the elastic on the outside of her right buttock. The shriek was now desperate in tone.

On the fourth and fifth, two angry red parallel marks were made on a now continually gasping and moaning friend. It was not pleasant to watch as on the fifth she gave a loud sob.

The sixth, low and seemingly even harder, broke my poor friend. She sobbed into the desk as her bottom waved from side to side slightly as it tried to cope.

The final one was only slightly below the sixth and was undoubtedly the hardest. I did not see much of the mark forming as Elsie stood the moment after it was given and gripped her bottom, hopping from foot to foot as she did so.

Miss Carlow looked at my aghast face. “Not something you wish to satisfy your curiosity about, Denise?” She asked.

“No miss.” Was the very quiet, intimidated response I gave, as I cradled my still horribly sore hand, though clearly there were even more horrible sore things that a Head could do to your bottom ,I reflected reluctantly.

Miss Carlow allowed Elsie some time to get dressed as she fetched the school punishment book from the secretary’s office. We were forced to watch as she made our entries in that book of shame. Then she gave us a final admonishment. “So Denise, I do not expect to see you here again, but if I do you will know what to expect! As for you, Elsie Fleming, I am very disappointed at your lack of control. If, or, I fully suspect in your case, when, you are caught smoking again, then I will give you a full eight strokes directly before Assembly, and afterward you will be able to let all the girls know exactly what a caning for smoking can involve! Is that understood?”

Elsie looked shocked, but sniffed out an affirmative reply. With that we were told to get back to our classes, for both of us, History.

After cleaning up as best we could we staggered into the classroom. I am not sure if my friends were more shocked that I had dropped out of the ‘never been caned’ club, or at Elsie’s demeanour, who usually took her canings pretty well.

Whatever the case, I reflected as I tried to see how much I could flex my swollen hand without it hurting too much, there was no way I wanted to have my bottom beaten like Elsie had.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have succumbed and started smoking, perhaps a little at a time, if I had not been caught that day. However, the experience and, in no small part, the fear of a second visit to Miss Carlow (or for that matter the marginally less awful option of Mrs Jenkins) ensured smoking was a vice I ‘kicked’ well before it ever could become a habit.

That, however, was not the case, I am afraid, for Elsie Fleming, who never could kick that habit. Two months later the Head was as good as her word. Elsie had two days of dread before having to report to the Head’s office on a Thursday morning instead of going to registration. After, in the main hall, my rather distressed friend was dragged on stage at the beginning and the Head announced before she started that she had been caned eight times for repeatedly smoking. Elsie’s distress was magnified into loud sobs as she was told to hold her skirt and slip up at the back, and the Head pulled everything covering the original source of that distress down to mid-thigh. The red marks were clearly visible from the back of the hall, and I am sure it must have been quite a shocking sight for the first years at the front. Though she managed to calm a little as the assembly went on, her rather pitiful sniffs were audible throughout as she remained in that shameful position for the whole fifteen minutes.

To this day, I wonder how many, if indeed any, girls in that assembly decided to kick the habit or never started, having witnessed the results of Miss Carlow’s strong right arm.

The End

© Joanna Jones 2014