A girl’s first choice doesn’t work out
By Paul Tecres
My heart was pounding like it never had before. Our principal, Mrs Wilkins, looked up some information on her office computer. I was seated in the chair facing her desk, and not at all comfortable. She turned her attention from the screen back to me. She spoke in a tone that sounded calm, but seemed to be hiding intense anger underneath. Not that I blamed her.
“Claire, I’ve spoken with both students and teachers who witnessed the incident. Now, I want to hear in your own words what happened in the cafeteria today.”
My mouth felt dry and I did everything I could to keep from shaking. Even though I was dressed in the proper uniform of our school, white collared shirt with three buttons and knee-length blue plaid skirt, I still felt naked in a way. I cleared my throat and began my confession.
“Today, at lunch, Leslie Vance was talking to someone. While she was distracted, I crept up to the table where she sat and I poured, um, pickle juice into her drink. I’m sorry, Mrs Wilkins. I-I didn’t know.”
“You didn’t know what?”
“I didn’t know that she was allergic to pickles.”
“Well, I suppose you now understand why she always brings her own lunch from home.”
“I did get an update on her condition, and she’s going to be fine. The school nurse was able to administer an epinephrine injection just in time. Having the ambulance take her to the emergency room was just a precautionary measure. The doctor recommended that she stay home and rest until Monday. Fortunately for you, her parents have decided not to press charges. They’ve chosen to let me handle the situation. Now, there is another matter we need to discuss as well. I’ve been told by more than one person, that this is not the first time you’ve done something cruel to Leslie. Is that correct Claire? Tell the truth.”
“Yes ma’am,” I said nervously.
“Give me some examples of other things you’ve done to her.”
I stammered nervously. “Um, I’ve made rude jokes at her expense. I’ve called her names. I’ve thrown food into her backpack.”
Mrs Wilkins’ gaze turned even more stern.
“Claire, we have a word for a person who does those kinds of things to someone without provocation. Do you know the word I’m thinking of Claire?”
I hated the thought of saying it out loud, but I knew where this was going. “Um, B-Bully?”
“That’s right, Claire. We call them a bully, and I have a zero-tolerance policy on bullying. Do you understand what that means?”
“Um, I’m not sure.”
“That means bullying does not go unpunished at this school.”
I cringed slightly at those words. I knew this was going to end badly for me. I just didn’t know how bad yet.
“Now, this being a private school, I have more leeway in how those punishments are carried out than a public school administrator would. Recently, the board of directors has asked me to try a new innovation that they’ve come up with. They want me to offer students a choice of punishments. As I looked through your file earlier, I saw that your parents did sign a consent form for corporal punishment when you were enrolled here. So, you have two options.
“Either a seven day suspension, meaning that you’ll be out the rest of this week, and all of next week. Bear in mind you won’t be allowed to make up work you miss during that time. Alternatively, you can receive a vigorously administered paddling in this office. What do you think of those options Claire?”
The words ‘vigorously administered’ made the paddle sound a lot worse. I thought things over for a moment. This was the last week of the current grading period, and I had done a couple of extra credit projects already. I would likely pick up more of those next grading period. I did well in all my classes, so I felt I could take the academic hit and still come out alright. I replied shakily to her question.
“Um, I’d take the seven day suspension.”
She looked quite displeased at my response. So much that I mentally re-traced everything I said, wondering if it came across as disrespectful in some way. Finally, she spoke again.
“Hmm. That is interesting. Now, something you should know is that when the board asked me to try this out, they did not say that I was required to give the student their chosen punishment. In fact, they said I would still have the final say in all disciplinary actions.”
I was even more scared now. Mrs Wilkins continued.
“My personal opinion on the matter is that a student should be given the opposite of what they choose. Punishment needs to be difficult to endure in order to be effective, and I think the choice made reveals which one would be more difficult.”
My jaw dropped open at the words I was hearing. Things only got worse from there.
“The wording of school policy on corporal punishment has a noteable clause. While it limits me to a maximum of five strikes with the paddle, it states that the limit is ‘per offense’. You’re here today for causing bodily harm to a fellow student, and also for bullying. Now, a little math exercise, if I gave you the maximum corporal punishment for both offenses combined what would the total number of strikes be?”
At that moment I wanted to scream, I wanted to run from the office, I wanted to do so many things. In the end I stammered my reply.
“That’s right. I’m glad to see that your math skills have been maintained.”
Just then I was startled as the final dismissal bell of the day rang. I had been in the office for so long that I had forgotten the time. Mrs Wilkins was quick to make sure that I wasn’t saved by the bell today.
“Stay where you are. I know that you drive yourself home, so you won’t have to worry about catching a bus.”
Mrs Wilkins opened a drawer in her desk. She reached in, pulled out the paddle, and set it on her desk. It looked horrifying. It was about fifteen inches total in length. Six inches of that was carved into the shape of a handle. The blade portion was about three inches wide, and I’d guess it was just over a quarter of an inch thick. It had a thick lacquered finish, dark red in color. The way she handled it made it look lightweight. I knew the finish on it would make it pretty sturdy though. I was glad that I didn’t say what I was thinking. “Oh crap!” would have been a poor choice of words at that moment.
“I’ve had this for twelve years now, and I must say, it always gets the point across. Now, stand up.”
I did my best to get to my feet even though my legs were a bit shaky by that point. Then she issued terrifying instructions.
“Another noteable item of school policy is that I must administer corporal punishment on a clothed bottom. However, I am not required to do so on a fully clothed bottom. Take off your skirt, fold it neatly, and leave it on the chair.”
I struggled to unhook the skirt because I was shaking so badly. Eventually I got it undone, and did exactly as I was told. Mrs Wilkins pointed to an area of her desk to my right.
“Stand here, feet shoulder width apart. Keep your legs straight, and bend over until your elbows rest on the desk.”
I was now in a position where my rear end was sticking out, making a perfect target. Mrs Wilkins added to her instructions a little bit.
“I’m going to give an assignment as well, Claire. I want you to write an apology letter to Leslie, and give it to her when she comes back on Monday. I want you to apologize for this incident, as well as all the torment you’ve put her through. I also want you to tell her in the letter what consequences you faced as a result. Give her details, including how you felt while your punishment was administered. Do you understand?”
“Yes ma’am.” I said, sounding very meek.
Mrs Wilkins walked around behind me, and I felt her line up the paddle and tap it on my backside a couple of times. Then she drew it back and landed the first strike with so much force that it pushed my body forward slightly. I instinctively straightened my position, and let out a loud yelp. Tears welled up in my eyes, and began streaming down my face. The second blow landed a few seconds later, and my resulting scream quickly turned into a loud sob. In a way I was almost grateful for that. I genuinely felt terrible remorse for what I’d done, and I was crying about that as much as the horrible pain.
The swats continued and I cried out loud at each one. I wanted so badly to apologize to Leslie, and her parents, and the entire school. I lost count of how many strikes I had taken, somewhere around the fourth or fifth one. The swats continued and each one built on the soreness of the previous. Finally, Mrs Wilkins spoke again.
“One more, Claire.”
With that, she landed the last one and it pressed into the already tender flesh of my posterior. I continued sobbing as my bottom burned and throbbed. I stayed in that position for several minutes before I was able to calm down.
Mrs Wilkins told me that I could get up when I was ready. She was much nicer to me now, offering me tissues to dry my eyes, and telling me to take all the time I needed to compose myself. When I had gotten myself back in order, and put my skirt back on, Mrs Wilkins told me I was free to go, and reminded me of the assignment she gave.
The drive home was not enjoyable at all. Just getting in the driver’s seat required extra effort, and it seemed as if I felt every bump in the road on the way home. When I arrived, my mother was waiting in the living room. Seated in a chair with no arms. I had a pretty good idea why she chose that particular chair.
She told me about the call she’d gotten from school, and the trouble I’d gotten in. “You know what has to happen now,” she said.
“Dad isn’t home yet, so we might as well get this over with.” She pointed to her right side.
I walked over without comment. She told me to bend over her lap. I did and braced myself for what would be next. Mom then lifted my skirt, and pulled my panties down. I hadn’t yet seen what my backside looked like from the paddle, but it was enough to make mom gasp. She paused for a moment before speaking.
“On second thought, I think a good long grounding is suitable for this. Two weeks. That should be good enough.” She pulled my panties back up and sent me to my room to start on homework.
I wrote the letter Mrs Wilkins assigned me, and hand delivered it to Leslie the following Monday. I also verbally apologized and asked her to convey my apology to her parents as well. She said that she would. I told her that there were plenty of embarrassing details in that letter, and that she could feel free to make copies and give them to her friends, since I probably deserved that.
“I wouldn’t do that to you,” she said. “I prefer to just forgive and move on.”
Leslie was so nice to me. She even hugged me when those words made me start sobbing again.
© Paul Tecres 2022