In the next part of the series we recall Meryl Taylor’s return to Queen Anne’s, this time as Matron.
By Tara Patterson
Nurse Meryl Taylor looked at herself in the full length mirror and checked her uniform; she was wearing her new mid-blue uniform dress that was covered with a starched white apron. As it was summer, her legs were clad in a pair of sheer stockings. Her auburn hair was wound into a tight bun that sat below a white nurse’s hat. The shining buckle of the blue belt showed up against the white of the apron. As Meryl pulled the last of her white elasticated cuffs up her arm she caught sight of the time on the wall clock; she was late. A quick check of her fob watch showed the time to be correct.
“Not a good start, Taylor,” she muttered to herself.
Outside, the sun had already risen. The mist hung low over Lake Windermere where it had the beginnings of a lovely summer’s day.
Meryl cursed herself again under her breath for being late as she rushed along the main dormitory corridor. Her plimsolled feet made no sound on the thin carpet. The School was silent except for the occasional snore that came from behind a dormitory door. Matron Routledge was waiting for Meryl at the top of the main stairs. She had already unlocked and opened the small hatch in the wall that covered a large steel button switch.
“Good Morning, Matron.” Meryl whispered, as she instinctively gave a crisp naval salute.
“Good morning, Taylor,” replied the old Matron as she clumsily tried to return the salute. “I see old habits die hard. Quite a momentous day, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Ma’am. I’m going to have to try and stop saluting my superiors now that I’m a civilian again, but then fifteen years in the ‘Andrew’ does that for you. Although today ought to be one for the log, 17th July 1985, the last day of term and your last day as Matron. It feels quite surreal doesn’t it?”
“Yes it does, Taylor, but then life goes on,” retorted Matron Routledge. “I can’t do this job for ever. It’s good that the governors have allowed me the opportunity to retire early. I’m looking forward to being able to devote more time to my painting and I can think of no better person to take over from me. You have really blossomed since you became a nurse, although I do remember what you were like as a schoolgirl. Quite a transformation, don’t you think? Now, shall we get them up?”
With that, Matron Routledge pressed the steel button. A loud bell rang out along the corridors.
* * *
Later in the day, the corridors had again fallen silent as the last of the pupils made their way to the waiting coaches and cars on the drive.
“And what have I told you about running in the corridors, Meanwood? Any more of that and you will be feeling my strap. I haven’t retired yet, young lady!”
Meryl stood by the door of the surgery and smiled at Matron Routledge’s familiar voice booming down the corridor. Queen Anne’s was certainly going to be a different place without her.
A thin dark haired sixth form girl hurried past the surgery carrying a suitcase, followed by Matron Routledge. The old Matron looked at Meryl and sighed.
“Well, that’s the last of the girls gone so I suppose it’s the end for me too.”
Matron Routledge reached down to her uniform belt and unclipped a thick leather strap. She looked at the strap and ran her hand down the smooth surface of the old supple leather.
“Well, Matron Taylor, it’s all in your hands now. We have had the official handing over of the school keys and I see you are comfortable in the Matron’s quarters, so you ought to have this too. I certainly won’t need it again.”
Meryl looked at Matron’s strap, so long a feature of her own schooldays. She took a hold of the handle. It felt strange holding it.
“I suppose I ought to give you a lesson in how to handle it, hadn’t I?” said Matron Routledge. “In the right hands, it’s most effective. But then you know that from experience, don’t you Taylor?”
* * *
The two nurses stood in the surgery next to the examination couch. A pillow had been placed over the end of the couch in the same position as a pupil receiving a punishment. As Meryl strapped the pillow in place so she could practice, Matron Routledge looked on with interest.
“Arm further back, then lean into the swing as the strap descends,” Advised Matron Routledge.
Meryl hit the pillow three times in close succession.
“Good, Taylor, you are getting the hang of it now.”
Meryl whacked the pillow twice more.
Meryl paused and looked at her mentor. A wry smile came across Matron Routledge’s face. She looked thoughtful as she spoke.
“It’s much different when you have got to punish a pupil for real, of course. It’s hard not to get involved. You have to put your emotions to one side and ignore their pain and discomfort. You know as much as I know I had a reputation for being hard on you girls with my strap. It was something I hated doing.”
“I know, Ma’am,” replied Meryl. “I was a bit of a regular of yours, wasn’t I? I can’t speak for the others but I never thought badly of you for strapping me. In fact, I’m rather glad that you did; it taught me respect. And that rules must be followed.”
Matron Routledge continued.
“Of course, practice is one thing but using that strap on a real subject is rather different. It would be good if your first experience was supervised.”
“I suppose so,” Meryl answered pensively. “Not much we can do about that though. I’m sure I’ll be okay.”
Matron Routledge smiled. “Actually, there is. You’re not the only new member of staff at Queen Anne’s, you know.”
“Yes, I know, although I haven’t met any of them yet.”
“No, well, most of them won’t arrive here until the beginning of September, ready for the start of the new school year. A couple have called in for a look around, and one you will remember. I spoke to her earlier. I mentioned I was handing over to you today and we hatched a little plan.
Meryl frowned. “Someone I know? Who?”
“Jennifer Hapwood. She’s due here any minute.”
“Jennifer Hap…!” Meryl’s voice tailed off as she recalled the prefect from her own sixth form class.
“You didn’t always get along with Jennifer, did you?”
“That’s something of an understatement!”
“She’s taking over as Head of the English Language department.”
“She has changed somewhat. It’s seventeen years since you were together in the upper sixth form, you know.”
“People like that never change!” Meryl snapped.
She’d no sooner finished speaking than there was a quiet tap on the door.
“Come in,” Matron Routledge called, giving Meryl a stern look as though to say: ‘Mind your manners and behave.’
It took a couple of seconds for Meryl to recognise the now thirty-five year old former prefect. The honey blond hair was a little lighter, the physique maybe slightly leaner, but the woman dressed in a pale grey two piece suit was certainly the person Meryl had detested when Jennifer was a prefect and Meryl merely a sixth form girl.
“Hello, Matron Routledge.” Jennifer Hapwood and the outgoing matron shook hands, both smiling broadly.
“Hello, Meryl.” Jennifer held her hand out to Meryl, still smiling but less strongly and with a distinct sign of uncertainty in her expression.
“Jennifer.” Meryl briefly shook hands with her former fellow sixth former, not quite catching her eye.
Matron Routledge gave the two the opportunity to make conversation, but neither spoke.
“Since the two of you will be working together,” As she spoke, Matron Routledge removed the pillow from the end of the couch. “And since we all know the two of you were not exactly close friends when you were both here in the sixth form, I feel there’s a need to improve your relationship with each other. Jennifer?”
“You know, all I really wanted was to help you stick to the school rules, Meryl. Only, you kept breaking them and I could see you getting into such trouble with the head and the other staff and I was afraid they would eventually feel enough was enough and expel you. That’s why I was perhaps a little hard on you.”
“A little?” Meryl appeared unconvinced.
“Yes, I picked on you, I looked out for opportunities to catch you out, and I slippered you more often and harder than any of the other girls.” Jennifer chewed her lower lip thoughtfully. “Honestly, though, I did really do it for your own good. I can only hope you can come to believe that some day.”
Meryl folded her arms. There was some truth in what Jennifer said, only she didn’t want to admit it. There was indeed a time when she had come close to getting herself expelled, perhaps more than one occasion, and Jennifer had numerous times summoned Meryl to her room and slippered her when she would have been quite justified in reporting her to the headmistress.
“You’re clearly not convinced by what Jennifer has said, Meryl.” Matron Routledge said. “It’s obvious from the look on your face.”
Meryl shrugged. “Possibly, possibly not. It hardly matters now anyway. We’re grown up and now we’re work colleagues.”
“Part of a team, Meryl. It’s important the staff work together as a team. There’s no room for hard feelings and animosity. Hence the plan.”
“Plan?” Meryl looked up.
“As I said earlier, you need someone to practice on while I’m here to supervise you.”
Meryl looked blank.
“That’s where I come in,” Jennifer said. “You obviously still have feelings of resentment about the way I dealt with you in the past, and I maybe feel some guilt too. You need someone to practice on, and I’m available.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Meryl exclaimed after thinking about it for some seconds.
“No it isn’t,” Jennifer countered. “We simply cannot have any lingering hard feelings. We’ll be working together too closely for that. I’d far sooner you leather my bum.”
“It does seem an ideal solution,” Matron Routledge added.
Meryl sighed. “Okay, you’ve convinced me. Let’s do it.”
“Perhaps we should try four strokes and see how you get on.” Matron Routledge suggested. “Is that okay, ladies?”
“Sounds good to me.” Jennifer glanced towards Meryl, giving her a hint of a smile.
Meryl looked down at the strap in her hands, Could she bring herself to use it? She certainly could in Jennifer Hapwood’s case. It was one aspect of the job she hadn’t thought about, having been too wrapped up in considering the medical requirements of the role. She knew she was going to have to use Matron’s strap sooner or later. Corporal punishment was part of the fabric of Queen Anne’s. Meryl took a deep breath and tried her best to sound authoritative and stern.
“Right then, Hapwood,” she began. “Four strokes of the strap it is. We don’t want any fuss, do we? So, stand at the end of couch and lower your trousers.”
While Jennifer complied, Meryl flattened the pillow still fastened to the ends of the examination couch, and wound the handle to lower the couch a little. That done, she found Jennifer with the trousers draped around her ankles.
‘That short jacket and white blouse won’t get in the way,’ Meryl thought to herself. ‘That leaves those very brief pink panties and the tights. Tights? If this were really a sixth form girl those would be contrary to the school rules. And there’s something about inappropriate underwear too!’
“Not really suitable for school wear, wouldn’t you say Jennifer?” Meryl looked down and the tights and the tiny panties, and moved round to stand directly behind her former classmate. “In fact, your bottom is virtually bare under those tights.”
“All the better for a good spanking, Matron.” Jennifer slipped the tights down.
“Assume the position, Jennifer.”
As Jennifer bent over and placed herself across the pillow, Matron Routledge whispered in Meryl’s ear: “Good start, girl! Well spotted with the tights too. You could always give her an extra stroke or two for that, if you wanted.”
While Matron Routledge stood back, Meryl lined the strap up, ready for the first stroke.
“Brace yourself, Hapwood,” she commanded.
Meryl brought the strap down hard.
“Arrgh!” Screamed Jennifer.
“Owww!! That hurt!”
THWACK! THWACK! Meryl delivered two hard strokes, one after another.
“Arrgh!! Well, you certainly seem to have learnt how to strap, Meryl. Quite effective, I’d say.” Jennifer began to ease herself up from the pillow.
“Did I say you could get up, Hapwood?”
Jennifer flopped back across the pillow.
“I think we’ll have an extra stroke for that, Hapwood, plus another for the tights.”
Jennifer didn’t speak, but she wiggled her bottom before bracing herself.
THWACK! THWACK! Meryl put all her effort into delivering two really hard, well aimed strokes.
“Ooowch! Ooooh, god, that stung!”
Meryl stood back and stared at Jennifer’s almost bare bottom, now looking quite red and sore.
“Well done! A perfectly executed punishment, I’d say.” Matron Routledge patted Meryl’s bottom a couple of times. “I think Jennifer would agree, wouldn’t you Jennifer?”
“Absolutely. May I get up now?”
“Very well, Hapwood. Punishment concluded.”
Jennifer eased herself off the pillow and rubbed her bottom tenderly before she pulled her trousers up.
Meryl held her hand out. As they shook hands, Meryl spoke again.
“Actually, Jennifer, thanks very much for volunteering. It’s been good for my confidence.”
“And settled things between us?”
© Tara Patterson 2015