A teacher incorrectly sends a girl for punishment

By Rob Burton

“May I see you a moment please, Katherine?”

The petite girl half hesitated before turning at the sound of her name. Silence, save for the sound of murmurs as the others left the room.

Miss Lewis spoke.

“I want to apologise for what happened yesterday. You were right in what you said, and I am truly sorry for the action that I took.”

Katherine looked up as the words finished, then back down to the floor. She did not need to reflect on what happened yesterday. There was a constant reminder every time she sat down.

“I saw Miss Kent first thing this morning and told her that I had made a mistake. I believe she has made that known to you and that the punishment has been removed from the records. I hope that her and my apology make up in a little way for the punishment you received.”

It had been the worst moment in Miss Lewis’s five-year school career. The lesson had started so well with 6b. The usual, casual, good-humoured history lesson. A bit of learning, a bit of fun, and Katherine being her typical ‘class clown’. It was how she was all the time, a brilliant student, destined for the top in whatever field she finally chose. Her knowledge and the ability to remember important times, dates, and facts was quite breathtaking to see. It was a pleasure to teach someone with this aptitude, even if occasionally she overstepped the mark in her attitude when correcting a point of fact.

That was how it started yesterday. Yet, somehow it was different. At first, it was hard to put a finger on it, and it was not until late evening when there was time to reflect that it came to Miss Lewis. It was the sudden blurting out that the fact was wrong. Usually, Katherine made a grand gesture of raising her hand, in the manner of a first- former who knew the answer and was trying frantically to gain the attention of the teacher.

It was comical to watch, it made everyone giggle, especially when she added, “Miss, Miss, please Miss.”

Only this time she just stated that the fact was wrong. Miss Lewis was taken aback by the rudeness of the sharp words, and just looked at Katherine for a moment. The room had gone silent, the other students waiting on her next words.

If they had taken a vote, it would have been everyone to zero that Katherine was right and that Miss Lewis would make a quip about testing the class or give her long stare before picking up her ruler, sauntering to the desk and asking in a mock threatening tone ‘who is the teacher here’, before tapping the ruler. Everyone would laugh, Miss Lewis would correct the fact and the lesson would move on.

Only this time Miss Lewis did not. She really did admonish Katherine for rude behaviour. At first, the student thought she was joking, and would not apologise, despite a request for her to do so. A detention handed out and still there was no backing down on either side. The class sat silently in amazement, their heads turning from one to the other, like a game of tennis that had reached forty-all. Stalemate for a moment as silence fell upon the class. Miss Lewis, arms folded, staring daggers at the sixth former and an equally reticent student sat back in her chair, staring back. Perhaps if Katherine had left it there, it might just have blown over, but she had to have the last word, only this time those words had Miss Lewis stomping across to the desk, grabbing Katherine by the arm and somewhat dragging her out of the class. It did not stop outside, either. Katherine protested, so Miss Lewis carried on down the corridor and straight into Miss Kent’s study, knocking first, of course.

The afternoon history lesson had finished in eerie silence without Katherine. Miss Lewis went straight home after the final class, emotionally exhausted from the incident. For the first time since becoming a teacher, she cried. They were tears for many things, but mainly frustration the matter was not dealt with in class. Now a pupil that she admired and genuinely liked had been punished because she had not controlled her emotions and dealt with the situation. Instead, she had acted like a silly junior teacher and dragged the girl to see the Headmistress to deal with the problem. Now a pupil had either a sore backside or, worse, expelled. That brought more tears as she had not even bothered to find out the outcome.

Sleep did not come easily. Then suddenly, at a little after two in the morning, Emma remembered to check her notes about the disputed fact. More tears as it became apparent that Katherine was mostly right.

A very tired Emma Lewis, bags under eyes hidden with uncharacteristically heavy make-up, had gone straight to the Headmistress and confessed. Miss Kent was disappointed and said politely that she would deal with the aftermath, as long there was an apology to Katherine.

“I do realise that it will take some time for you to forget the terrible incident yesterday, but I would like to hug you, and maybe in time I will get back my special ‘class clown’. It was not the same in class today.”

The teacher slowly opened her arms, desperately hoping they would not be rebuffed. She knew there would be tears if they were.

“Perhaps, Miss, if you don’t mind, I can gather my thoughts and take the Easter holiday to reflect.”

At least the tears held off until Katherine had left the classroom.

The Easter holiday should have been a joyous time for Emma. The family meal on Sunday was a tradition where they all gathered at her parents. The whole Lewis clan, including newly arrived Claire, the latest niece, ate, drank and made merriment despite the cold damp weather. Only Emma could not help but think about school things. The Katherine incident still played upon her mind. The ever-reoccurring thought that it was her fault the girl had gotten six of the best. The trouble was that she kept seeing an image of Katherine bent over and the slipper walloping down on her already very red bottom. It disturbed her that she should keep getting the image over and over, but it was not the only one, though. There was also one of her bending over and the same large white plimsol whacking her sore behind.

Anna, her sister, knew something was up. Emma denied it, of course, when quietly asked away from prying ears. They both knew it was a lie, but it was left at that.

The week after dragged. A persistent reminder of what happened and what lay ahead always there each time Emma opened an exercise book to mark. Frustrating tears that suddenly rolled down her face at random times, and still the weird vision of the slipper smacking hard against the white knickers of the bent-over bottom.

Emma was not sure if she was relieved that school had resumed. There was still the matter of Katherine hanging over her head, like Damocles’ sword, but at least work would distract, hopefully.

It was too much to hope for as it turned out. Katherine made little if no effort to take part in the class. Only when asked a question was there any attempt at communication, just an answer to a question and nothing more. The assignment that had been set for over the break and returned was just enough, no enthusiastic six pages of enlightening insight as there had always been before. It got the top mark, but it was not a joy to read. There were tears at the start and more tears at the end. Emma felt so deflated with thoughts of quitting at the end of the year popping through her mind. How could she have let Katherine down so badly when teaching was all about helping the students get knowledge and learn for their life and work ahead.

It got no better. Even the students started to notice in her classes. A distinct lack of fun, it was ‘all so matter of fact’ and nothing more. Emma avoided the staff room except for meetings, finding conversations tiresome, with too much joviality for her to cope with.

Her sister still persisted over wanting to know what was up. Emma had gotten to dread hearing the ring of the phone each night but answered anyway, just in case it was something important. It never was. At least Anna did say one thing on the Friday after a long week that never seemed to end. ‘Whatever is making you moody, I suggest you go and confront it before it eats you alive.’ It was kind of brutal and left Emma speechless for a moment. It was left at that for this conversation but there would always be next time. A lack of sleep had Emma thinking about the words. However much she hated what was said, there was no getting away from the truth that lay behind them.

They must be confronted and confront them Emma did.

“Right ladies if you can please remember to hand your assignment by Friday please.” With a deep breath, she added. “Katherine, may I see you please?”

“I have an appointment with Miss Ford, miss.”

“Oh, right.” It was all she could manage to say as Katherine passed by towards the door. It was not supposed to go this way. In her head, they sat and talked it over. It ended with smiles as they parted.

“I could come after last class this afternoon instead,” Katherine said, turning back as she stopped by the door.

“Um, um, yes that would be fine.” Emma stammered back caught unawares by the offer.

“See you at four, then, miss.”

“Yes, fine, thank you, Katherine.”

Then Katherine was gone. Emma put her hand on the desk for support. She also took a deep breath, then another, and just hoped the bravado could last the whole afternoon.

There was a knock on the door. It made Emma jump, as if she was not nervous enough already. She could just see a shadow through the wired narrow glazed panel in the door.

“Come in.” She said puzzled why anyone would knock and not enter.

It was Katherine, which was even more puzzling, also not good for the nerves that seemed to have found a new home in Emma’s tummy.

“You wanted to see me, miss?”

“Please have a seat, Katherine.”

Emma had put a chair close to the desk and gestured towards it. It was an attempt to be friendly, a less formal atmosphere, and put Katherine at ease.

Taking a deep breath, Emma began before the silence became uncomfortable.

“I, err, I, err.” It was not a good start as she noticed Katherine pull a puzzled face at her stammering.

“Sorry. Right. I realise that I caused you a great deal of hurt a few weeks ago and for that, I am truly sorry. I appreciate that this may have changed your opinion towards me, and I fully understand that as well.”

The words came out a little fast. If written, there would have been no punctuation marks, just a long line of letters.

“I never meant to hurt you or your feelings, but I did both. If I could take it back, I would and do it differently.”

“One final thing and then I’ll stop rambling. Please may I have my class clown back, I miss her so much.”

Emma looked away, aware that there was a possibility that the sudden influx of tears in her might escape and make a run for it down her left cheek.

All this time, a passive Katherine sat in silence, her school bag resting in her lap. She squeezed it closer to her body as the silence lingered while they looked at each other.

Katherine finally spoke.

“Why is it that if a student is perceived to get something wrong and tries to make a case for her argument, she gets a punishment of one type or another.”

Miss Lewis wondered where this was heading but sat waiting without replying.

“I mean, surely if we were to be fair, there would be the same punishments. After all, the school says it promotes fairness in everything.”

“Okay, so are saying that I deserve some form of punishment?”

The eerie silence made Emma feel the need to interject. Not that she was sure where Katherine was taking this but, knowing her, there had been a deep thought behind it.

“Yes, I do.”

“Like lines or detention after school?” Emma said almost with a smile at the suggestion that teachers attend detentions. In Room Two, as students used Room One. Would Prefects sit in and watch to make sure they sat quietly and worked for the whole hour. Send them to the Headmistress if stepping out of line.

“Or even corporal punishment in some cases.”

“Seriously, a teacher getting the slipper?”

“Or the cane.”

The words hung there; the cane. The last resort, Emma remembered Miss Kent once saying.

The silence returned as they looked at each other from two yards apart, both knowing that Miss Lewis was about to say out loud what was in her head already.

“Are you saying I should get the slipper, or the cane, for my error in class that day?”

Katherine placed her bag on the floor beside the chair. Standing, she looked left thoughtfully for a moment and then back at Miss Lewis, while the teacher’s eyes followed with a look of puzzlement.

“Why don’t you go and wait in the cupboard and I will be along in a moment.”

Emma stared wide-eyed back at the student, stood with her hands on her hips, waiting. ‘Surely, she can’t be serious,’ were the words pounding in her head. It was like watching a vision of herself standing there precisely that way. It was something she had become conscious of recently because it was what her mother did. Miss Lewis took one last look at Katherine then slowly walked to the cupboard, head bowed in shame.

She found the light switch and pulled the door but did not shut it. The first thing to catch her eye was the slipper that rested on the third shelf, just above the spare desk and chairs. It was always going to be there, and there was a real possibility that shortly it might be dusting her behind, as her Aunt would say when her cousins and sometimes herself got out of hand. Not that the threat was ever carried out on her, for the cousins though it was a different matter. Emma knew from first-hand accounts that both Mary and Louise had been dusted many times. Her mother, thankfully, only sparingly used her hand when needed.

Like a moth to a flame, her eyes gravitated to it as if mocking her. That and the anticipated footsteps coming that way. Emma now knew how the girls that she sent here would feel. Not that she sent many; so far, only three this year. Each merited their punishment, in her opinion, despite the reluctance to whack girls for the sake of it. Perhaps if she had taken more thought at the time, she should have dealt with Katherine herself instead of passing the buck. It might have stopped the situation they had now where two people suffered emotionally and physically.

Once more, the slipper caught her eye like a siren calling to her. “It’s your turn to pay, little Emma Lewis.”

Perhaps Katherine was right that all people should be held responsible for their mistakes. After all, it was Emma’s error that started the problem. But just not the slipper. “I’m too old for a spanking,” as once more the black size ten momentarily came into view. It was cut short by the sound of footsteps. The door opened for a brief moment before being closed shut. Miss Lewis stood glued to the spot, watching Katherine turn to face her.

“Bend over, right over, and touch your toes.”

It was direct and to the point. No other words as the pupil walked in front of the teacher. Emma watched as the girl reached up and took the slipper from its resting place on the shelf.

“Now, Lewis. I am not in the habit of repeating myself.”

Miss Lewis, shocked once more by the words, adjusted herself to face away from the shelf, bent at the waist and reached for her ankles. A sudden thought of not enough exercise as she strained for the last final inch to the black stocking covered ankles. The skirt of the blue dress stretching across her upturned bottom.

A shuffle of feet and a hand on the teacher’s back broke the concentration. The dirty floor stared back at Emma, a mere foot away from the disbelieving eyes. “This should not be happening,” pounded in the head of Emma as she waited for the tap to warn her it was about to start. “How many?” Another thought popped up then left. “Why is it taking so long.”

Miss Lewis need not have worried, for a moment later came the answer, and without any warning.

There was a small squeal, more out of shock than pain. Well, initially, that was as the slipper slapped hard across the waiting bottom with a quick shuffle of feet as the warmth spread.

The second and third followed quickly. Hardly a moment for Miss Lewis to absorb the whack of the rubber sole across her left cheek before another landed on the right one, only a little harder. A reflex had hands moving to towards the wounded bottom, rising without any thought of consequences. Katherine’s hand stopped the upward motion as she pressed on the lower back. Once more, fingers touched stockinged legs near the ankles.

Each whack seemed to be harder than the last as the warmth in each cheek turned to uncomfortably hot. The fourth landed dead centre and caused another shift of the hands upwards for a brief moment, before settling back.

Number five followed. Emma saw Katherine’s feet through her legs as they moved away, only to return as the sixth one landed full force across the tight blue dress. Emma jumped up, screamed, and grabbed her seared backside. A passive Katherine just stood and watched the jig of Miss Lewis as she tried desperately to quell the fire in her stinging hit cheeks. Two hands were frantically rubbing at the same time, almost in unison.

Katherine handed Miss Lewis the slipper after the teacher finally composed herself. Emma wondered if the girl was mocking her before placing the implement of pain back on the shelf, noting that the sole still had a little warmth to it, but also that was considerably less than that she could feel from both bottom cheeks presently.

Emma, like any thoroughly chastised girl, waited to be dismissed. No words spoken since before the six of the best. The silence lingered a moment before Emma held out her arms to Katherine for a hug, not sure if it would be accepted, rejected like last time, or further admonished.

Katherine smiled and moved tentatively between the offered arms. Their bodies finally touched, and Emma softly wrapped her arms around. No words exchanged as they stood in the dimly lit storeroom each holding the other, and heads resting on shoulders.

Emma raised her head, softly kissed the cheek of Katherine. “Thank you. I hope I have my class clown back.”

Katherine looked back at the smiling, almost tearful Emma. “Yes, miss.”

Emma’s face glowed as she grabbed Katherine tightly, kissed her cheek once more.

The End

© Rob Burton 2020