The marriage of Mr Lane’s Goddaughter sparks memories from years past.
By Tara Patterson
Today was a bitter sweet moment for Mr Lane, Headmaster of Queen Anne’s Boarding School, Ambleside. His Goddaughter, Hannah Reeves, was getting married and he had the honour of walking her down the aisle to give here away. For David Lane this was a sad duty one he didn’t want. He thought of his old school friend, Michael Reeves, and his brave battle with cancer and how he hadn’t lived long enough to see his beloved daughter’s wedding day. As David paced nervously around the sitting room of the Reeves’ family home, going through his ‘father of bride speech’ he didn’t notice Hannah glide into the room.
“Is my uniform up to scratch, Uncle David?” She asked, a cheeky smile on her face.
Mr Lane turned, the image that be fronted him brought him almost to tears, Hannah the blushing bride, in a long white Victorian style gown. Her waist nipped in by a tight corset, her auburn hair was covered by a veil topped by a silver tiara.
“I’m lost for words, my darling, you look beautiful. Your father would have been so proud; it should be him standing here right now not me.”
“Don’t.” Hannah replied. “It’s hard for me too, Dad not being here. I’ve had a little cry for him already today but, well, I know he is watching me. I’m going to put my bouquet on his grave before we leave the church. And don’t you feel awkward about giving me away; this is what he would have wanted.”
“What’s this, Reeves?” David’s eye was drawn to a shield shaped badge pinned on the left of the bodice on Hannah’s dress. The words ‘Head Girl’ shone brightly in gold against the dark blue enamel background.
“Well Sir, I suppose this is the last time you can call me that. I felt that I had to wear it. For one, it’s my ‘something blue’; secondly, well, if I hadn’t been elected Head Girl then I wouldn’t have worked so closely with Steven and we may not have got together. It meant a lot to me being head girl; I was heartbroken the day you took this badge away from me and I remember the lesson you taught me when you gave it back. This dress, it’s white for a reason I can one hundred percent say that I have every right to wear it.”
David Lane looked at his Goddaughter.
“So you’re still a…”
“Yes, Uncle David, I am!” Hannah interrupted with a smile. “With hindsight, it was lucky you caught us when you did. In a way I’m so grateful. Steven is too, really, but it’s been hard not to give in to temptation although I think it has helped us as a couple, given us a real solid start, if you know what I mean.”
Hannah Kissed Mr Lane on the cheek and said: “Come on, let’s go. I know it’s a bride’s prerogative to be late but not me; that’s another thing I leant at school, being late hurts.”
* * *
Five years earlier on this May evening, Headmaster David Lane headed towards the study used by his Head Boy and Head Girl. It was almost nine pm the universal curfew time for all the borders in the school. However, Head Boy Steven Bowles and Head Girl Hannah Reeves were unofficially allowed to stay in their shared study a little later if they had work or revision to do. Although Hannah was Mr Lane’s goddaughter he had shown her no favouritism during her time as a pupil. In fact, Mr Lane had abstained from the staff vote on who should be the head girl for fear of influencing the result. Hannah’s Father was an old school friend of Mr Lane’s. He had recently been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Mr Lane felt that he ought to look in on his goddaughter to see how she was coping with the news of her Father’s Illness. The study door was closed, but Mr Lane could see light coming from the crack under the door. He knocked on the varnished wooden door and without waiting for a reply he opened the door.
As Mr Lane entered the study, he was shocked by what he saw. Hannah and Steven were not working at their desks but were locked in a passionate kiss on a sofa at the side of the room. Hannah was wearing her gym kit. Steven’s hand appeared to be up inside Hannah’s polo shirt on her breasts, whilst Hannah’s hand was inside Steven’s unfastened trousers. The two pupils flew apart and stood up. Hannah hurriedly straightened her hair and pulled down her polo shirt whist Steven fastened up his trousers, trying to hide the obvious bulge with the bottom of his un-tucked white shirt.
“And just what the hell are you two doing?” Shouted Mr Lane. “You should both know about the 12” rule; no physical contact between male and female pupils! What a disappointment this is to find you both like this. You should be in here revising, not getting up to goodness knows what with each other. You have betrayed the trust placed in you as Head boy and Girl; you are supposed to be role models for the rest of the pupils. As for you, Reeves, I thought much more of you, young lady. How long has this been going on?”
The two pupils bowed their heads and looked at the floor. They both knew arguing back was going to be pointless. Mr Lane had caught them well and truly red-handed.
Mr Lane continued his tirade.
“Well, your parents must hear about this; you are both in very serious trouble. In fact, you have endangered your very presence at this school. I’m not a man, however, who makes decisions on the spur of the moment. If I punish you now it will be clouded by my shock and anger. We may all regret the consequences of a rushed judgement made in anger. A matter as serious as this must be investigated fully. I will call you both individually to my study at a more appropriate time so that I may understand the circumstances around your relationship and the compromising position I have just found you in. However, in the meantime, I think that you should be suspended from your duties as figureheads of the school. So please hand me your badges and the keys to this study. Whether or not this suspension is a permanent arrangement will depend entirely on my investigation and my interviews with you.”
Steven picked up his blazer from the floor and unpinned his Head boy badge from the lapel. He opened a desk drawer and took out a small key and handed both to the Headmaster.
“Thank you, Bowles,” said Mr Lane quietly. And now you, Reeves, your badge please.”
Hannah was crying. She picked up her blazer hanging from a coat stand by the door and just looked at the enamel badge. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing the badge and status she was so proud of.
“I’m so sorry, Uncle David,” she whispered.
Mr Lane held out his hand.
“Your badge, Hannah.” He said in a more firm voice this time. “Please don’t make this situation any harder for yourself, or me for that matter.”
* * *
“Well, David, I am shocked but I can’t say I’m surprised. I remember what we were like at that age, although you expect more of your own daughter, don’t you?”
Mr Lane had decided the actions of His Head Boy and Head Girl warranted face to face meetings with their respective parents. Steven Bowles’ parents had visited the school for their meeting but Mr Lane had decided to personally visit his old friend, Hannah’s Father.
Mr Lane continued his tale of how he had found the two pupils and their subsequent interviews with him.
“They are both being very noble about the whole affair. Bowles is insistent that he is to blame and that Hannah should not be punished, whilst Hannah is also insisting that she be punished instead of Bowles. As for that punishment, I know previous head teachers have expelled pupils for being caught in such a compromised position, but I feel such an action would have lifelong consequences for them both, especially as it is so close to their final examinations and also as they have both just received university offers. I have been considering an alternative punishment that would impress on them the seriousness of what they have done. As for their positions as Head boy and Girl, I may reinstate them after they have been punished.
Michael Reeves ran his hand through his white hair. The chemotherapy was making it much thinner than before. He stood up and poured two glasses of scotch.
“Well, really it’s your call, David. Naturally I’d be disappointed if you felt the need to expel Hannah but you must do what you see fit as headmaster. You must treat Hannah as equally as any other student of yours. Please do not let our friendship cloud your judgment. I have always admired the way you have treated her; fairly with no bias or favour. Although I must admit if the other punishment you have in mind is anything like what we used to get at St Peters, then I almost feel a pity for her, but I’m sure it will be for the best. Although I understand that young Bowles has been quite a support to Hannah, certainly these last months since I got diagnosed. He was all she talked about when she came home at Easter.”
* * *
Hannah and Steven sat opposite each other in silence on the hard chairs outside Mr Lane’s study. They made eye contact and Hannah smiled at Steven but nether dared to speak; the little red traffic light on the door frame shone brightly. Steven brushed down his blazer and fiddled with his tie. Suddenly the light turned green. Both pupils stood up; Hannah smoothed down her gingham uniform dress and opened the door.
Just as they entered the room, Hannah snuck a glance at Steven and mouthed: “I love you.”
Mr Lane was seated behind his large polished walnut desk. Hannah noticed ominously that the surface of the desk had been cleared; that was never a good sign. Hannah and Steven stood before the desk. They both made sure to keep a sensible distance apart, although they each longed for the other’s touch, for comfort and support.
Mr Lane looked over the top of his steel rimmed glasses and began to pass his judgment.
“Well, I hope the seriousness of this situation has sunk in with you both. I appreciate that although you are both eighteen and that outside of this establishment you would be free to conduct yourselves differently, you most both learn that whist you wear that uniform and are members of this community you must abide by and follow our rules and uphold our moral standards. Until now, you were both outstanding beacons for the school with good records. That is why you were both elected to the privileged position of Head boy and Girl.”
Hannah and Steven listened, heads bowed. Steven looked out of the corner of his eye at Hannah; her eyes were wet she was trying to keep her composure.
“You will be pleased to learn that I have decided to lift your suspension and you may return to your duties as Head Boy and Girl, but I think that just in case of future temptation I ought to ask you to abide by the following rules regarding the use of your shared study. You will no longer be allowed to stay in the study after curfew; you must return to your dormitories at 9pm like all other pupils. Secondly, the sofa will be removed, and finally, when you are both in the study together, then the door must remain open. Please do not consider these actions as a way of me breaking your relationship. It is clear from the discussions that we have had, and the discussions that I have had with your parents, that you both have very strong feelings for each other. This isn’t a bad thing, but your relationship mustn’t become a distraction at this vital time in your education. It also is not appropriate for it to develop into a physical relationship on school premises. But a strong supportive friendship is certainly to be encouraged.”
Mr Lane opened his desk drawer and took out Hannah and Steven’s badges, along with their study keys. As he handed them over both pupils smiled and said: “Thank you, sir.”
Mr Lane continued his speech.
“Unfortunately, now we must come to your punishment. This is not going to be pleasant for any of us here but nevertheless it has to be done to teach you both a lesson. You will recall that one duty you may undertake as head boy and girl is to witness the punishments of your peers. I have decided that, due to the sensitivity of your situation, you will both witness the other’s punishment. I have decided that, as you were both noble enough to individually accept full responsibility for your actions in an attempt to protect the other, I shall be punishing you equally and simultaneously. I’m afraid that your actions leave me with two choices, I could expel you both from school for gross misconduct. I’m sure you will appreciate what a disastrous effect that would have on your futures. Or I could continue with a solution that will be very severe, teach you a lesson, and more importantly have no negative effect on your future plans or University applications. It is my solution, therefore, that you both receive a caning. That is, ten strokes of the senior cane.”
Hannah gasped. Steven, the blonde haired 6’2” athletic captain of the school rugby team, actually started to cry.
Come come, Bowles,” snapped the Headmaster. “I have also decided that as Reeves will, for the sake of her modesty, be caned over her knickers and not on bare flesh then I will, in a spirit of equality, allow you the privilege of also keeping your underwear on. Now I think we ought to continue. This matter has dragged on long enough. Both of you, remove your blazers. Reeves, lift your dress and bend over this side of the desk. Bowles, you bend over this side. Trousers off ,boy.”
The two pupils silently took up their positions. Hannah, who had been caned in her younger days, knew the drill, lifted her gingham dress and slip. She bent over the left side of the large desk; she knew it would be best to just comply with her godfather’s instructions.
Steven seemed to take his time removing his shoes and trousers before he took his position on the right side of the desk, lying the opposite way across from Hannah. Hannah thought she could feel Steven shaking in fear as Mr Lane went to the back of the study for his cane.
Steven whispered: “I’ve never been caned before, Hannah. I’m so scared.”
Mr Lane overheard the whisper but decided to take some pity on his head boy.
“You may hold hands if you wish.”
Hannah’s right hand soon found Steven’s; she squeezed it in support.
“Be brave, Steve. I’m here,” she whispered. “We are in this together.”
The cane landed hard on Hannah’s tightly stretched white cotton knickers. Hannah gasped in shock and gripped Stevens’s hand. Mr Lane then moved around the desk and took up position behind Steven.
“OWWWW!” Cried the frightened Head boy. He began to sob and whimper.
And so it continued, Mr Lane alternating the hard cane strokes between Hannah and Steven. Hannah tried all she could to endure her caning silently. She gripped the desk hard, bit her lip and just tried to get through it. Steven was not so stoical; with each stroke his cries and sobs became louder and louder.
Stroke number six crashed down on to Stevens’s bottom.
“Owww! ARRRH!” Cried Steven. Hannah gripped his hand and through her own pain she tried to encourage her boyfriend to keep things together.
“More than half way,” she whispered. “It’s just as bad for me too.”
Stroke seven cut across the six painful wheals on Hannah’s behind.
“P-please, Sir, give Steve a rest.” Hannah begged. “Finish my caning. Then I can help him through his.”
“Very well, Reeves,” replied Mr Lane. “You are doing well. You are being very strong, just like your father was when he faced the cane.”
Mr Lane brought the cane hard down again on Hannah’s tightly stretched knickers.
After ten hard strokes Hannah’s punishment was over. She wanted to cry, to shout anything to take her mind off the throbbing pain, but she remembered that she had to keep it together to show Steven she was being strong for him.
“Right, Bowles, four more strokes for you, then it’s over too,” encouraged Mr Lane. He paused while Hannah, despite her pain, leaned across the desk and held Steven’s hands.
* * *
The Best Man sat down after his speech and handed the Microphone to Hannah. The new Mrs Bowles cleared her throat as she stood up to speak.
“I know it’s not traditional for the bride to give a speech,” she began. “So I’ll be brief. I want to make one more special thank-you in addition to those who have contributed to make today so memorable. One man has been missed. A man who we ought to toast. He has done so much for me. He has kept me on the straight and narrow and he has always been there, a tower of strength and guidance for me and for Steven. Especially in these years since I lost Dad. He also helped Steve and me to lay a good strong foundation to our marriage; for that I will always be grateful. So, ladies and gentleman, I give you one last toast; to Uncle David.
© Tara Patterson 2015