A 1950s period piece set in a girls private school
By Jane Fairweather
They were onto their third martini at Susan’s splendid house on the edge of Wharfedale, which was the well-earned result of her clothing business, and the four women were all of them getting rather silly and talking about their school days.
“Oh tell us that story again, Phyl.” Susan suddenly demanded of her lover.
Anthea sardonically grinned at Elsie, who she knew liked this ritual less than the rest of them.
“Which story?” Phyllis asked innocently, as she always did.
“The story of our last day at school, which you always tell better than any of us you silly cow.” Susan said with love in her eyes, which had survived a good many ups and downs.
“Well it wasn’t my last day.” Phyllis said with a grin as she always did.
“You know jolly well she means the day you and Elsie got the cane and everyone except you was expelled.” Anthea laughed.
“Oh that one.” Said Phyllis, well aware that when she had finished and they had all said their piece the other two would politely retire to their bedrooms and she and Susan would make love.
“Oh go on Phyl!” They were all saying, so she began, yet again. And yet, as she told it, she began to try to imagine what had really happened. The story was all too easy to tell, but the reality behind it was a different matter. What had actually been said? Could she remember?
* * *
“Stinker and the Head have been an awful long time nattering.” Elsie Thomson observed with more than a hint of unease; over half an hour standing outside the Headmistress’s office was beginning to get to her and indeed to all the girls in the increasingly nervous little gang.
Phyllis, with her usual slightly odd detachment, noticed there was more than a hint of panic in Elsie’s voice; the slight touch of Yorkshire in Elsie’s middle class accent always got worse if she was upset.
“Well Stinker did catch us red-handed in town with boys, when all we had was a pass for a film she had told us to see for educational purposes.” Anthea Fitzpatrick cut in. “And drinking coffee in a Lyons Coffee House at that. You’d think we’d been on treble whiskies, the way Stinker went on. She could have just told us off about the boys and let it go. And now I expect she’s demanding the block and the axe at the very least, if not hanging drawing and quartering; Stinker’s like that! Anyway I don’t suppose the Head will wear it. We will just be told to get off with us and not do it again. And we will probably get gated. But that’s life; you cannot break school rules and expect to get away with it, even in the Sixth.”
“It’s those boys that’s worrying me.” Said Elsie, “We really shouldn’t have been kissing them.”
“Well, would it have been better if we had been kissing one another?” Said Anthea satirically.
“You know what I mean.” Elsie snapped crossly.
Phyllis reflected she would have liked to have been kissing Sue. It was the chief reason she had not joined in the slightly silly mass necking. But Clive, whose lap she had ended up on, had been rather gentle and intelligent and they had been enjoying a very good chat till they had been rudely interrupted by a furious Miss Watson. Then an image of Sue bent over for the cane with nothing on her bottom came into her mind and she giggled at the thought, in spite of the parlous situation they all faced. Wheaton Hall School for Girls was strict and Miss Hyde-Martin was a tartar, if a fair one, and there was at least a chance they were going to get the cane.
“She wouldn’t cane us, would she?” Susan ejaculated, oddly echoing her close friend’s thoughts.
“Oh come on Sue, they hardly ever use the cane here.” Phyllis said grandly, “The last time I can remember was for bullying and that is a couple of years ago, though there was that girl who was done for stealing last year. I wonder if she got it; if so, nothing was ever said officially, unlike with those bullies.”
“Marty Alexander, you mean?” Susan cut in and then without waiting for an answer added: “I heard on good authority she got a real hiding, though it wasn’t announced in Assembly or anything.”
“I heard she said that she got it from her father as well when she got home and that must have really hurt; she must have been still sore from the first time. She was a day girl, you see.” Elsie proclaimed, sounding even more panicky.
“Girls, girls, this is stupid. Of course she won’t cane us. We’re too big for that. And anyway all we did, wasn’t it, was talk to some boys in a coffee shop when we should have been going to a boring flick based on one of those endless novels by Sir W. Scott because Stinker had recommended it as background for History. The Head will probably ignore the kisses and pretend that did not happen, if we don’t mention it,” Phyllis said loftily, but also consciously trying to improve Susan’s morale.
“Yes, but it is precisely because Stinker recommended Ivanhoe and we used it as an excuse to pick up some boys and go to a coffee bar that she is so mad; and then Stinker thinks kissing boys is evil; I am sure she is one of those man-haters you read about and if she persuades the Head to look at it like that then we could really be for it.” Elsie retorted.
“Oh come on girls, we are just talking ourselves into a panic. The Head is much too sensible to do anything more than just tell us off and almost certainly gate us. Anyway I doubt the cane is that bad; my brother and his pals always seem to think it is a bit of a joke, quite honestly; it might even be a bit of a let off and better than gating.” Anthea proclaimed.
“That’s t’ boys not liking to say they are soft.” Elsie said.
Phyllis noted that Elsie was definitely panicking, for she was speaking in Yorkshire.
“You’d better calm down, Elsie; you know the Head hates you not speaking properly.” Anthea cut in before Phyllis could say it. “You could end up with a bit extra.”
“Anth’s right!” Phyllis said seriously. “For god’s sake watch it, or you could really cop it.”
“It’s alright for you, Phyl, you’re t’ head’s favourite; you probably won’t even get gated.” Elsie snapped.
“Come on you lot! It’s bad enough without us arguing among ourselves.” Susan said severely.
The four girls lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. Phyllis found herself wondering if you really had to bend over for the cane. She knew younger girls occasionally got it on their hands, but there were rumours that on the rare occasions seniors got whacked, it was on their bottoms, but she had no idea how. With a thin summer dress and cotton pants on she was not in the best condition to receive it, she decided. Susan, who usually wore thicker, fuller knickers than herself would probably do better. She imagined her best friend’s tightly be-knickered behind about to receive its punishment with only a vest above it to provide any modesty. In spite of herself she gulped, but then decided that the chances of any of them receiving the dreaded punishment were about one in a hundred, if that; and if they all did end up in a line waiting to be whacked then it would probably be on their hands, which would be very boring. On the other hand, the thought of being kept in the school every Saturday afternoon for the remaining five weeks of term and probably having to do extra prep was not that inviting. She glanced at her watch. The Head and Miss Watson had been talking for over forty minutes. Really the whole thing could have been over and done; this long wait to be punished was ridiculous and unnecessary. She found herself feeling quite angry.
Phyllis then realized the talking in Miss Hyde-Martin’s study had stopped and her heart missed a beat. Stinker swept out of the Head’s study looking very pleased with herself. The door stayed closed for an uncomfortable couple of minutes. Then the substantial figure of Miss Hyde-Martin was at the door and Susan was being told to step inside.
“I was thinking that we would all get to go in together and it would be easier somehow like that.” Elsie was saying.
“I thought so too. I only hope she isn’t giving us all different punishments; maybe some of us are getting caned and some not.” Anthea observed almost too calmly.
Phyllis rather cold bloodedly reflected that Anthea’s way of talking suggested she was awfully scared, but she did not like to say so. She wondered what was being said. The only sure fact was that Susan was being bawled out at the top of Miss Hyde-Martin’s stentorian voice. It would be interesting to know if Susan was going to be bending over soon and disappointing she was not going to see it, if it happened; there was a fair chance it wouldn’t.
“This is not going to be fun!” Anthea observed rather unnecessarily after nearly five minutes of this, but the other two ignored her as they listened in increasingly spell bound horror to the voice in the study.
There was a brief silence and Phyllis found herself wondering if you would hear the cane if Susan was unfortunate enough to get it, but you would probably hear her yells, wouldn’t you?
The door opened without any yells or cane strokes being audible and Susan emerged sobbing her eyes out and clasping her hands together. Phyllis’s immediate reaction was that her best friend of over five years must have had her hands caned.
“What happened?” She asked urgently, desperate to get an answer before the door opened again and she was summoned; she was quite convinced she was next.
“I don’t believe what’s happened. I got sacked. I just don’t believe it. I got sacked. Stinker must have made it sound so awful; and the Head even brought up that time a year ago when I copied part of Anth’s essay for Stinker. I’ve got to go to my room and wait till they’ve phoned my parents and worked out which train I am going on. Oh god it is awful; the cane would have been a lot better.”
Susan’s friends were too shaken to say anything as her elegant figure made its uncertain and tearful way down the corridor.
Phyllis clenched her fists in an attempt to calm herself down. She was quite convinced she was next and she was not going to let herself dissolve into hysterical tears, even if she was going to be expelled; and anyway Miss Hyde- Martin had always been very kind to her, so there was at any rate a chance she was going to escape Susan’s fate.
Then to the startled surprise of Phyllis who had been convinced she was next, Anthea was being summoned. Then came the same grim shouting.
“It’s copying that essay that’s doing it.” Said Elsie. “You’d think the Head would have forgotten about that by now. They got a real roasting at the time, and a gating.”
Phyllis remembered she had refused point blank to allow Susan to copy, best friend or not. She listened for the sound of the cane almost in hope, but it did not come. The door opened and a very tearful Anthea was saying much the same as Susan had and then her tall, slender figure was vanishing down the corridor. Phyllis realized with a shudder she was probably not going to see her two friends again; and Susan was something quite special to her. She had got everyone’s up to date addresses and phone numbers, hadn’t she?
“T’ cow is not going to expel us as well, is she?” Elsie ejaculated.
“This cow is now ready to see you Miss Thomson.” Came the sonorous deep voice of Miss Hyde-Martin, who had opened the door a fraction of a second before Elsie spoke.
“Oh God, that’s torn it; we are all going to get thrown out now.” Phyllis thought to herself as she listened in numb horror to Elsie being well and truly shouted at; presumably calling Miss Hyde-Martin a cow had introduced a rather personal element into the equation.
Then, rather to her surprise, there was the sound of a cane being applied with considerable vigour at least four times and the sound of Elsie screeching. Clearly it hurt! But still, it was not being expelled and Phyllis felt very real relief.
But then the shouting resumed and, to Phyllis listening with beating heart and frightened as she had never been frightened before in her short life, it sounded dreadful, as if it would never end.
At last the door opened and Elsie emerged very tearful and looking quite unnaturally pale. Her hands were touching the back of her thighs through her summer dress.
“You won’t believe it.” Elsie sobbed. “She caned me for calling her a cow and then she expelled me for the rest. I just don’t believe it. Give me a ring when you get home, won’t you. I expect you will be going home too.”
“Yes, we must keep in touch, all of us.”
“A very touching little scene!” Observed the voice of Miss Hyde-Martin, who had now opened the study door again. “But get off to your room, Miss Thomson, and stay there till you are told the taxi has arrived. The time for fond conversations with your classmates is over. And as for you, Phyllis Jackson, we had better have some words now, hadn’t we? Come in and shut the door after you.”
Phyllis realized she was trembling and sweating as she followed her headmistress into the study. She must not make a fool of herself. Of that, she was quite determined. She wondered if there was any hope in the fact that she had been addressed by her Christian name, but she doubted it; it was probably just a slip of the tongue. She was almost certainly going to have to explain to her parents how she had managed to get expelled and she was almost certainly for it from her father. He would probably cane her, she decided, glancing uncomfortably at the horrible sight of the very supple-looking brown implement on the desk behind which Miss Hyde-Martin was now in the process of first pulling out her chair and then sitting down.
“Not a very pretty picture is it, Phyllis Jackson?” Came the Headmistress’s voice, “You are encouraged to go and see a film in the dubious hope it may benefit your studies, and what happens? You do not merely go and gossip in a girlish fashion in a Lyon’s coffee shop, which I suppose would have been idle and naughty and quite bad enough in a senior girl. You pick up some boys, I think that is the uncouth expression, and according to Miss Watson (and I have no reason to doubt her) indulge in some very intimate behaviour while in school uniform. I understand that you were sitting on a boy’s lap when Miss Watson entered. Is that correct?”
“Yes Miss Hyde-Martin. How do you know we picked the boys up Miss and they didn’t pick us up?”
“A fair enough question, I suppose, given the general tendencies of the male and female sexes. Miss Watson made a few enquiries at the counter before she made her presence known to you and your partners in crime, and the manager was most forthcoming. I gather he did not like your behaviour any more than Miss Watson.”
Phyllis nearly said that this was more than a little sneaky, but she bit her tongue.
“I understand you were the only girl who was not actually kissing a boy. Is that correct?”
“Err, yes, Miss Hyde-Martin; he was from the Grammar School and quite interesting to talk to.”
Phyllis reflected that she would quite like to meet Clive again and it was annoying she did not know his surname, but she had only been with him because Susan was otherwise engaged and it was Susan she was really interested in.
“What did you talk about?”
“Korea and the silly war there, Miss Hyde-Martin.”
“I see. Not the latest films and jazz then?”
“We started like that, Miss, but then we got more serious.”
“Well perhaps your case is very slightly better than your friends then. Their blatant kissing in public with boys they did not even know is disgraceful, especially in school uniform. But why ever did you sit on his lap?”
“I did like him, Miss, anyway, but we were a chair short.”
“I see!” Said Miss Hyde-Martin with a wintery smile, but have you no respect for the uniform you wear? As I understand it you had taken your blazer off and you were walking in the street without your beret. Miss Watson asked the coffee shop manager and he was extremely forthcoming.”
“I did not mean to do anything wrong, Miss, I really did not. It was very warm, Miss.”
“Not so warm as your backside is going to be, Miss Jackson, but before we get round to that, what were your marks at the Easter exams?”
Phyllis floundered for a second, barely able to remember as it dawned on her that she was really going to get the cane. Then she stuttered: “Seventy-three for History, seventy-one for Eng Lit, sixty-six for French, Miss.”
“Which is, over all, the top mark in the whole year, though you only came third in French and I am not going to expel you after a performance like that, for which you may thank your lucky stars. Well that and the fact that your behaviour was that bit more decorous than your friends. However I am going to give you something to remember for the rest of your life. Have you got a slip on?”
“No, I am afraid not, Miss Hyde-Martin. I am afraid it is too hot, so I left it off.” Phyllis stuttered, wondering how much being improperly dressed was going to add to her punishment.
“Well that at least saves us from the mutual embarrassment of having to pull your dress up. Two layers of clothing is what the Governors have decreed in their wisdom, though personally I think it should be one. Bend over my desk and take a firm grip on the far side, Miss Jackson. Now, please, and if you make the slightest fuss I will certainly change my mind and expel you after all.”
Phyllis felt intensely ridiculous, but also extremely frightened. She reached forward over the desk and gripped the far edge of the brightly polished desk on which the sun was glimmering. She felt her dress tighten as she did it, was convinced that her pants were going to be extremely visible to her executioner, and blushed scarlet, feeling incredibly humiliated. She sensed Miss Hyde-Martin move behind her and pause. She suddenly realized that far from being extremely visible her pants had worked their way up between her buttocks and there was only the dress between her skin and the cane. This started her sobbing, though she just managed to stop herself pleading.
“Quite a solid bottom, compared to your predecessor’s. She got off with four because her behind was so small. I think yours should take the traditional six.” The Headmistress remarked more or less to herself as she tapped the seat of the dress.
“Please no! Please, don’t cane me! Please not six of the best!” Phyllis protested through her sobs.
By way of answer, the cane gave a ferocious swish and neatly bisected Phyllis’s plump equal buttocks. She felt a horrible wave of pain and realized her lower half had pushed forward and then back almost as if to meet the second stroke, and she was squealing like a stuck pig at the top of her voice. The next few minutes were not quite real as the cane swished into her soft flesh. She could feel the welts rising and her bottom thrusting backwards and forwards and the sting of the cane was horrible. She screeched at the top of her voice, reaching a crescendo every time the cane bit and held on to the far edge of the desk for sheer life. She kept wishing Miss Hyde-Martin would get it over with quicker and not leave such large gaps for the pain to build up. But finally Miss Hyde-Martin said: “Last stroke coming,” and the sixth one swished quite viciously, catching the meeting point of thighs and bottom and raising the biggest weal yet.
Phyllis gradually came back to this world and very cautiously let go of the far side of the desk, wondering if Miss Hyde-Martin had really said: “Last stroke,” or she had made it up. Then, in the absence of any indication to the contrary, she very gingerly stood up and clutched her inflamed aching behind. She wondered which was worse, this aching or the sting of the cane?
“You can go when you are ready.” The Headmistress said, then added: “That was really quite brave, Phyllis. I’ve always wondered if one of my girls could take six of the best like a boy. Apparently you at least can, but then you’ve always had a touch of the boy. Maybe you won’t be the last; it would be a useful occasional weapon in my armoury.”
* * *
“Did she really say you were like a boy, my dear?” Susan asked as the four of them sipped their martinis. “You’ve never said that before.”
“Of course she did!” Phyllis exclaimed. “It’s just I have never felt like admitting to it before. I felt so embarrassed being talked about as if I were a boy. Somehow I don’t mind as I get older.”
“You’ve always been quite boyish in bed; it’s one of your attractions.” Susan said dryly and rather awkwardly as if she was actually trying to say quite a lot more than that.
“You two ought to get together properly; you obviously want to.” Anthea, who was very open minded about such things, stated suddenly. “You’ve been on and off for nearly ten years and it is getting silly. Live together, for goodness sake; who is going to care!”
There was a silence as Susan and Phyllis exchanged half amused, half embarrassed, but also very tender glances.
“I suppose we could.” Said Phyllis. “If you want to do it, Sue, it’s your house.”
“Yes, of course I want you here, you silly cow!” Said Susan.
“A very passionate proposal!” Anthea remarked.
“Is that settled then, my love?” Susan was asking.
“Yes, I will move in tomorrow.” Phyllis was saying, looking quite radiant.
Elsie, who was embarrassed by this whole conversation, and, as they all knew, was not at all sure about this love between two women, said: “The caning obviously did something for Phyllis, but it was just bloody painful and humiliating as far as I was concerned. And to cap it all, I had twenty minutes over my Dad’s knee that evening and that was dreadful. It just went on and on. I will never forget that; it was worse than the cane. Anyway, I’ve always refused to spank my children. There are other ways.”
“Anyway, did it alter our lives?” Phyllis asked thoughtfully, going off at a tangent in slight bewilderment that something which had hung fire for so long was now so suddenly settled.
“Well it altered mine!” Said Susan. “My father said I would never live down being expelled and I swore I’d prove him wrong. I am sure it’s why I run my own company now. I’ve worked like a beaver ever since that day. And I was a layabout till then!”
“I think if it had not happened I might well have gone to teacher training college,” Phyllis remarked. “But as it was, I got to Sheffield and then did a year’s teaching diploma after University, so I suppose I got a better education. But I was a lousy teacher and I was never so glad as when Sue recruited me to work in her company.”
“With three quarters of an eye on getting you in to bed.” Anthea laughed.
“Four fifths!” Susan grinned. “And imagining Phyl’s lovely behind bent over that desk, which she told me about on the phone the same day it happened, was a lot of it. Can you imagine the cheek of the girl? She rang me that same evening to see if I was alright; our revered headmistress would have gone bananas if she had known. I’ve always thought that showed spunk, especially after being so nearly expelled.”
“And as I always tell you at this point, I got Phyl’s boy!” Said Anthea, grinning, “So from my point of view that day was most certainly not wasted. It was such a co-incidence meeting him on the other side of England when he was at Uni and I was a secretary there. It was strange. Clive and I both recognised one another at first sight. He really wanted to know what happened to all of us when we got back to the school. Men have such a thing about girls getting the cane. I think he is always disappointed when I tell him that we didn’t all get it. And he’s still got a slight crush on Phyl because she really got it in the neck. It’s always her story he wants to hear. I do my best, Phyl, but he’d love to hear it from your own fair lips one of these days.”
“Most certainly not!” Phyllis exclaimed. “I’d be so embarrassed.”
“But Phyl, you tell it so well.” Said Susan, at which all four women burst into hysterical giggles.
© Jane Fairweather 2017 To view Jane Fairweather’s Amazon Author Page, click here