Employee relations how it used to be

By Rob Burton

“Here Rose what’s those marks on yer bum?” Asked her roommate, Mary Pearce, as she was pulling on her slip after her bath.

Rose looked over shoulder into the mirror hanging over the bath as she lifted up the back of her slip to reveal six red weals. Rose blushed and quickly hid them again.

She pushed past Mary in the doorway and went in search of her dress. It was Sunday and time they were off to church. Mary finished brushing her teeth and joined her friend as they went to the morning service at St. Mathews.

It was a beautiful spring morning, the first decent day they had seen so far this year and everyone seemed a little bit happier despite the constant fear of invasion from the German army at any moment. It was 1941 and the war in Europe was still going badly for the allies.

After the service Mary and Rose took a walk through the park. They chatted about this, that and nothing but mainly about Mary’s new man, Albert. He was a policeman, unable to enlist it seems due being slightly deaf in one ear. They took tea in the cafe by the bandstand and watched the world go by for a short while.

Heading back to their flat in Oxford Terrace across the park again, Rose stopped, looked around and asked if they could sit down a minute. Mary nodded, a little puzzled and sat on the bench.

“Look Mary can you keep a secret,” Rose said, almost in a whisper.

“You know I can, our Rose,” replied Mary slightly miffed at her friend.

There was a silence as Mary waited for Rose to speak again. Rose who was looking down the path towards the gate took a deep breath.

“It’s about those marks you saw earlier,” Rose whispered, stopping to look around again.

Mary nodded waiting.

“The marks they areā€¦” the very anxious girl stopped a moment then, raising her eyes to the sky, continued: “Cane marks, in fact six cane strokes.”

Mary never said anything; she did not know what to say. Yes she had guessed what they were but what she wanted to know was how come her twenty two year old best friend had her bum streaked with red marks.

“You must promise not to tell anyone if I tell you how I got them.”

“Scouts honour,” replied Mary holding up three fingers.

“Not funny Mary. I am being serious here.”

“Okay keep yer knickers on,” Mary said, then suddenly realised what she had said.

“Haha aren’t we the witty one today.”

Mary apologised and asked her to continue.

“Gosh, ermmmm, look it was like this. You know on Wednesday when I said I was going to see Albert. Well it was a fib,” Rose said, gritting her teeth.

Her friend waiting on every word as once again Rose looked around to see that no one was within earshot.

“I went to see Mrs Cavendish in Potter Street, you know her that is Mr Kent’s secretary. Gosh, I’m not sure where to start.”

Mary just told her to start at the beginning.

“Well I suppose it started at the Christmas party the day we broke up. She caught me coming out of one of the accounts offices adjusting my suspenders and stockings. She said she knew exactly what I had been doing and with whom.”

Rose stopped, her teeth biting her bottom lip. Mary was intrigued as she knew nothing of what she was being told.

“She threatened me with the sack unless I did something for her.”

Mary looked very puzzled at her friend whose voice had gone from a whisper to a stammering squeak.

“I was frightened I can tell you Mary. I was so scared that I said yes without even thinking of the consequences.”

“It’s okay Rose, whatever it was I won’t stop being you’re friend.”

“She took me over to her boss’s office and once she had locked the door she sat on a chair telling me to stand beside her. I still had know idea what was about to happen but I still thought it could not be any worse than being given my cards.”

A pause whilst Rose took a breath.

“She spanked me.”

“Pardon, she did what?” Mary replied, perhaps a little too loudly for Rose’s liking.

“She walloped me over her knee. Even took me knickers down. She gave me a right good hiding I can tell yer.”

“Bloody hell Rose, why didn’t you say something before now.”

Rose just shrugged her shoulders and continued.

“Well it did not stop there. She would send me notes or telephone me from time to time. Each time I was so scared that I just went along. I mean it was only a sore bottom and some tears.”

“How many sore bottoms and tears?” Asked Mary, putting her hand on her friend’s hand and squeezing it in comfort.

“I dunno, six, maybe eight times.”

“Gosh, you poor thing Rose. So how come you got a swishing this time?”

“I was supposed to see her Monday lunchtime in Mr Kent’s office but I forgot. Remember we scooted into town to see if there was any lipstick at the Chemist. You know you had heard a rumour.”

“Yeah I remember,” Mary replied, vaguely remembering.

“There was a note when we got back. It said I was to go to her house at six thirty Wednesday. I pleaded with her when she took out the cane. I sobbed but the tears held no sway with her.”

“Gosh, I’m sorry Rose, it must have hurt bad. I remember some girls back at school who were sobbing frightfully after a visit to Old Pickles and her cane.”

“Yeah I can tell you it hurts. I got six whacks across me bare bum bent over the arm of her chair.”

Mary comforted her friend who, despite her lip wobbling, managed to keep the tears at bay as they walked arm in arm back home.

The rest of Sunday passed until bedtime and again Mary saw Rose’s marks. Her friend obviously no longer cared if they were seen. They both got into their beds feeling tired after such a traumatic day. Mary said goodnight and switched off her light. Rose turned to face Mary in the other bed.

“There is one thing more, Mary. It’s just that last Wednesday when I was making my excuses for Monday I accidentally blamed you.”

Mary reached out and put on the light again.

“Look I’m sorry I didn’t do it on purpose. I, I, I didn’t mean for it to happen,” Rose stammered.

“What is to happen, Rose?”

“Mrs Cavendish wants to see both of us tomorrow lunchtime.”

The End