A girl thought she’d taken the right precautions after losing a contest.

By Joanna Jones

Standing, hands on head, nose to the wall, outside the headmaster Mr Graham’s office I am an embarrassed, and worried eighteen year old.

Why am I here, I wonder. Well, if you call the Head Girl ‘a stupid bitch’ and slap her hard across the face, what does one expect? But that does not really answer the question: ‘Why am I here?’

Last Saturday, at Becky’s eighteenth, I definitely drank too much. We played a game, doesn’t matter what it was, but the loser had to pay a forfeit; get the cane within a week! I lost. Still wondering if I was set up. I am, for another few minutes anyway, the only one in my clique not to have had ‘it’. Enough slipperings and detentions to stop me ever being considered for prefect, but never ‘it’. ‘Till now that is.

Slapping Jane, our Head Girl, was an easy choice; at least I might as well enjoy the reason for the forfeit. I have disliked her since first year, stuck up teachers’ pet. I wonder what she’s saying to old Graham in that office. She dragged me straight here, leaving me under the eye of ‘The Dragon’, Mrs Jones, who no doubt will be called in to watch ‘for propriety’s sake’.

The door opens and Jane comes out. Her left cheek is still pink, with a little graze visible from one of my nails. Didn’t mean that. Ah well, can’t be helped. The Head beckons me in. He looks very angry.

The door closes. The questions start, an opportunity to defend myself. I don’t need it. Then the lecture; respect, control of temper, assault, unacceptable. Oh get on with it. Finally he announces sentence; no alternative, cane, four strokes.

Relief, dread in equal measure. Just what my forfeit requires.

Since I have assaulted Jane she can witness as well as ‘The Dragon’. Not so good, but, can’t be helped.

They are in the room now. Both look to be savouring the atmosphere, the anticipation of what is to come. I am not. Nerves are rising. He’s going to the cupboard, I see his canes hanging there. Please, just the ordinary senior cane, not that ‘special’ dark one on the far right. Relief – the senior cane it is.

The desk is cleared, then I am gripping the far edge, trousers stretched tight across his target.

Waiting… waiting… waiting…

Why won’t he start? I hear whispers, murmurs. What is going on?

Confusion. He is walking round in front of me. He’s grasped my wrists! Some question over my choice of underwear he says. “You won’t mind if Jane checks.”

Mind! Mind? Of course I mind! But I can’t move. I grit my teeth and close my eyes. This is not going to be good. Her fingers are on my side unhooking the waistband and lowering the zip. While still up, my slacks are loose. She is fingering at the side with the elastic underneath.

As I am zipped up again I hear: “It’s as you suspected sir. Thick black tights, then four pairs of underwear; her gym knickers, then two pairs of navy blues. The last one is white cotton.”

My wrists are free. An order: “Stand up!” Then another: “Explain yourself!”

I can’t. Or daren’t. Inside I am cursing, I was sure those tights would disguise my extra protection.

He speaks to the others. For a moment I don’t exist. “Did this girl have any opportunity to put on the extra layers since her attack on Jane?”

Answers are: “No,” of course. I am doomed.

Mr Graham has a look of utter fury that chills my core. He has made his judgment. Not an attack out of temper, a cold blooded assault, planned, premeditated, the cane an unavoidable hazard, cowardice in trying to protect myself. So it goes on. Finally he pronounces my doom; he can see no alternative to my expulsion.

Expulsion!? No please. I am pleading, tears now running down my cheeks. Desperation has set in. “Anything please. Only four months to my A-levels. Please anything!”

I am ignored. He phones my mother. I hear half. Words like ‘disgraceful’ fill the conversation. Then, ‘no alternative’, ‘too serious’, ‘maximum eight stokes is not enough.’ I feel sick.

Suddenly some hope! The Head says: “I’d not considered that.” He checks a book. ‘That’, whatever ‘that’ is, is allowed. Last comment from Head is: “Glad you will be emphasising the seriousness of this matter at home also.” I know what that means: I am toast.

The phone is down. “Well girl, your mother has made a suggestion for you to stay at this school. It involves fourteen strokes of the cane.”

Fourteen! I thought you just said the maximum was eight!? My poor bum.

He is continuing: “Eight for the pre-planned assault and six for the extra layers of clothing.”

Now he is back in the cane cupboard. Relief! That looks like a cane for naughty first year backsides. Maybe fourteen is not so bad. I start to bend over the desk again.

“Stand up girl!” He barks angrily. “This cane is for your hands, three on each. You are going to be the first pupil at this school to be ‘topped and tailed’!”

I am speechless. Six on my hands with that cane, then eight on my bottom (I guess that what is meant by the ‘tailed’ part.) Is this really better than expulsion?

I look at the door. The Dragon is in front. I am trapped in this hell. He is lecturing again. It is long, a warning never to get in trouble again, how lucky I am to be allowed to remain. Carry on. It is delaying the pain that awaits from that weapon he is flexing as he speaks.

“Left hand out!” It is time. I close my eyes, then a swish. Aaaagh! Agony! And that is only one. “Hand out!” Again I force my unwilling palm into position. Another swish, another stripe of pain. Then the routine once more. My hand is pulped.

Now the other. Three times I force my hand out. Each time is harder than the one before as the agony of the stick, seemingly trying to cut my right hand in half, hits home.

I am standing hands clamped under each arm, tears are falling copiously. I know more will come. An order. The “tail” caning is to be across one pair of knickers. Trousers, tights and the rest to come down below my knees.

Tears falling I try. Hands too sore. I fumble with the garments. Jane and Mrs Jones help. As they do the Head changes his cane. I know which one I am getting, that dreaded special. Yes, he has it in his hand. Now he bends it gently with a look that says I can expect no mercy.

“Over the desk!” The Head is right. My hands are too sore to grip the other side. Mrs Jones grabs my wrists to hold me down pulling me tight across the desk. My last pair, the white knickers, are high on my waist, the fabric between my buttocks – a result of Jane keeping them in place as the Dragon took the others down. Deliberate? I’ll never know. Whatever the case, nobody is going to adjust it. Nothing between me and that cane.

The worst few minutes of my life. Eight times a WHOOSH! Eight times a CRACK!, Eight times the complete agony. Eight blood curdling screams. Many more than eight sobs, tears, pleas falling on deaf ears. My struggles to escape, futile.

Finally let go I can’t move. The Dragon pulls my layers up one by one. Extra agony to my swollen rear. Jane looks shocked, almost sorry for me, as I blubber an apology.

I want to go to the loos, anywhere to hide. But No! The Head himself drags me to my A-level English class. They are silent as we come in. I stand in front of them, hands on head, crying as the Head describes my ‘despicable attack’ and ‘cowardice’, then my punishment. He punctuates his story with regular hard smacks to my bottom with his hand. Extra gasps, sobs and tears from me.

Finally I am standing at the back of the class. I can’t sit down. I have no tears left. I have paid my forfeit.

The End