Matron Taylor accompanies a group on a school trip but will the girls take advantage of her absence
By Tara Patterson
Hannah Philpott MP rushed from her office through the corridors of power down to Westminster Hall. Through the crowd of MPs and media crews she spotted the group she was looking for; twenty schoolgirls all dressed in navy blue blazers, gymslips and wearing straw boaters. Hannah paused for a moment as she saw the group leaders and nervously checked her appearance. She needn’t have worried; Matron Taylor saw Hannah and smiled. She greeted Hannah warmly and was amused that Hannah was wearing a school tie under her grey suit jacket.
“It’s good to see you again, Matron,” began Hannah. “Welcome to my world.”
“Thank you for inviting us,” said the old Matron. “It’s been a very interesting day so far, a long climb up the tower to see Big Ben chime. We are looking forward to your part of the tour. It’s nice to see you wearing your tie today, Philpott.”
Hannah smiled. “Mmm, I remembered what happened the time you caught me not wearing it. You were very strict about my uniform when I was with you. The Education committee was very interested in my report on your discipline techniques and their effectiveness. Actually, Matron, I think this is the first time I have seen you out of uniform.”
Matron Taylor looked down for a moment at her dark grey woollen suit. Her Falklands War veteran’s association broach was proudly pinned to her chest.
“It’s a first for quite a few of us,” smiled Mrs Rea who was standing next to Matron; she was Hannah’s old Form tutor. “I think it’s the first time I’ve seen our dear matron wear a pair of heels, always sneaking about in those dam plimsolls.”
As Matron frowned at her colleague, Mrs Rea continued. “I don’t think Matron would have come on this trip if you hadn’t invited her in person. She is so dedicated to her post she didn’t want to leave the school, not even for two nights, but the dormitories are in safe hands. I’m sure Miss Meanwood and Miss Patterson will more than be able to keep order in Matrons absence.”
“I just worry about them, that’s all,” said the old Matron. “I remember Meanwood and Patterson as school girls and some of the things they got up to, so it’s hard to let go.”
“And you were hardly squeaky clean, if you use that measure,” retorted Mrs Rea. “Jenny Hapwood told me once what you used to get up to.”
Before Matron had chance to reply, Hannah clapped her hands and addressed the group.
“Good Afternoon. Girls, and may I extend a warm welcome to my fellow Sphinxes, especially those from Wainright who helped me so much during my brief stay with you.”
* * *
Back at Queen Anne’s, under-Matron Patterson had just completed yet another tour of the dormitory corridors. It was 10:30pm, only one hour since she had called lights out, but she felt something was wrong. She was sure that some of the girls were up to something. Someone was bound to use matron’s absence to her advantage.
Seeing Miss Meanwood, the deputy Head Mistress, standing in the corridor did little to ease her apprehension. Miss Meanwood stood tall and erect in her usual tight black skirt and white blouse, but instead of her usual high heeled shoes she wore a pair of black Mary Jane shoes, the same type as the girls wore. It looked like she had been on a quiet patrol too.
“All quiet on the Western Front,” she whispered.
“Yes, Ma’am,” replied Tara. “It feels so strange knowing Matron is off site and it’s us that are in charge tonight. I should be used to doing night duty by now, but I’ve always had Matron to fall back on. It’s surprising what she hears even when she is off duty.”
Miss Meanwood smiled. “I suppose we are all guilty of that. Most of us rely on Matron far too much. There will be some big shoes to fill when she retires. Right, under-matron, it all seems in order. I think we ought to both turn in ourselves. If you need me, just call.”
“Thank you, Ma’am, and goodnight. I hope I’ll be able to sleep. I’ve just got this feeling some of the girls are up to something in Matron’s absence. It’s the sort of thing I used to do,” answered Tara.
Tara went back to her room. She paused for a moment as she switched on the light. Room 234 looked similar to how it had done when Tara was a schoolgirl. The second pair of bunks to the right of the door had gone, replaced by a wardrobe and a twin classroom desk. Tara looked at her laptop and the ‘A’ level text books on her desk and thought about doing some work. She was an owl, most of her best work often was done late at night.
‘No,’ she thought. ‘Curfew was an hour and a half ago; time for bed, young lady.’
Tara quickly changed out of her maroon nurse’s uniform and into her thick warm flannelette men’s pyjamas. After cleaning her teeth and a quick wash in the sink by the window, Tara climbed up into her top bunk. She felt tired but she couldn’t settle she tossed and turned. Tara jumped at every noise the school made.
Just as she was beginning to nod off, Tara heard a door creaking open in the corridor. In one swift move Tara was out of her bed. She flung open her room door and came face to face with Robyn Thornford. Both seemed equally as shocked as the other. For a moment they looked each other up and down. Tara was in her pyjamas and bare feet, but Robyn was dressed not in nightwear or uniform but in a pair of black leggings with a dark navy blue hooded top, while on her feet were a pair of black plimsolls with slightly muddy soles. Her dark brown hair was plaited in a pair of French plaits. Behind her, down two steps, the bathroom door was ajar.
“Don’t be telling me you have just been to the loo, Thornford,” began Tara, trying her best to sound authoritive and in charge. “The mud on your pumps is a dead giveaway and I didn’t hear you go to the toilets. How long have you been out and where have you been?”
The sixth form prefect looked at her captor. She normally got on well with the under matron. She looked at Tara, trying to find some sympathy or a blind eye.
“I-I only popped out for a moment, Miss Patterson. I find it a bit heavy sometimes sharing a room with five other girls. I just sometimes want my own space for a bit; you know what it’s like.”
“Totally unacceptable behaviour, young lady,” snapped Tara. “Surely you as a sixth former should be fully aware of the rules in these dormitories. And please do not think I am going to be a soft touch just because Matron is away. Rules are rules and they will be enforced. I would think very hard about what you tell me. I know just the sort of thing you have been up to and where you all go. I was an old hand at it once. That bathroom window used to be my favoured way in and out too.”
“No buts, young lady,” interrupted Tara. She did feel some sympathy for Robyn, but she couldn’t let it show. She was going to have to be professional and see this situation to its rightful conclusion.
“You know the penalty for being caught out of bed after lights out without a reasonable excuse, don’t you Thornford?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” sniffed the unfortunate girl. “It’s the strap, four strokes for being out of bed.”
“And two extra for going outside not in the correct school uniform,” added Tara. As she spoke she smelt Robyn’s breath. “Well at least you haven’t been drinking or smoking tonight, have you? So at least we can keep this transgression between ourselves and not involve Miss Meanwood.”
“Thank you, Ma’am,” whispered Robyn. “If you must know, I slipped out before lights out. I’ve only been for a walk to clear my head a bit. I haven’t been smoking or anything like that and you know alcohol makes me sick.”
Tara could see Robyn was telling the truth. She shivered for a moment; it was starting to get cold in the corridor. In the background the school clock began to chime; it was midnight.
“Right then, Thornford, shall we get the next part over with so we can both get to bed and get some sleep? I’m not as organised as Matron Taylor. I need to go and get my strap, so in the meantime you will wait facing that wall next to the bathroom with your hands on your head.”
Robyn did as she was told and stood facing the wall awaiting her fate. Tara went back into her room and found her leather strap tucked at the top of her wardrobe. She slid her mule sandals on to her feet and waited for a moment.
“Always best to build a bit of tension, they did it to me often enough,” she thought.
After a wait of several minutes, Tara returned to Robyn.
“Matron always used to strap me over these steps,” said Tara, pointing to two steps behind them that lead up from the toilet and bathroom area to the corridor by Tara’s room. “If you kneel on the bottom step and rest your elbows on the top on the floor, that will be an ideal position. Oh, and lower your leggings too, please.”
“Okay, Ma’am, let’s do this,” said Robyn as a sign of acceptance. She lowered her leggings and knelt on the bottom of the two steps. Only a thin pair of lace edged white cotton knickers covered her bottom. Tara took up her position and lifted the strap.
THWACK, THWACK, THWACK.
“Arrgh, ouch, oww, that stings,” muttered Robyn as Tara delivered three hard strokes.
Tara paused for a moment as Robyn stretched her legs and repositioned herself for the next strokes.
This time Robyn just gasped and bit on her clenched fist.
“Last one coming,” said Tara softly. “It’s going to be a hard one, mind.”
“OWWW!!” Cried Robyn as the final hard stroke crashed down. The whiteness of her knickers seemed to amplify the reddening of the skin on her buttocks.
Tara put down her strap and helped Robyn to her feet. Robyn rubbed her bottom as she pulled up her leggings. She felt like crying but she wasn’t going to show the Under-matron her tears. They could wait till she got back to her room.
“Bed time, Thornford,” said Tara holding out her hand. “I think this matter is concluded.”
Robyn shook Tara’s hand.
“Goodnight, Ma’am,” she whispered before she made her way very gingerly down the corridor.
* * *
As the girls headed down for breakfast, Miss Meanwood came along the corridor and spoke to Tara. Tara told her colleague of what had happened during the night and was most surprised by what the Deputy headmistress had come to talk to her about.
“You weren’t the only one who couldn’t sleep,” she began. “I ended up reviewing the list of candidates for next year’s head girl. It’s strange, the girl who fits in all my criteria is Robyn Thornford.”
“But I strapped her last night, and you caned her two weeks ago,” questioned Tara. “Surely the head girl should have a clean record on the disciplinary front.”
“Yes, but the goodie-two-shoes don’t make very good head girls,” retorted Miss Meanwood. “I like girls like us, those who have lived a bit and have the strength in character to push the boundaries a little. They are often the best at mentoring and guiding the younger girls and giving advice and sympathy to those who are in difficulty. Thornford is ideal in that sense. She will also be good at catching others up to no good. You proved that theory last night.”
© Tara Patterson 2016