Uniformity

A new headmistress needs to find out more about her new school. She does it in a curious way. By a new writer to us.

By Imreadonly

Jack Masters walked into his new office, opened the Headmaster’s cupboard, and took off his coat. It was spring on the calendar, but still chilly enough to require a jacket.

He had just hung his coat on the hook when he heard a knock on the door.  “Yes, come in,” he said.

A student entered, first peeking her head through the door, then coming in all the way. She was wearing the school’s traditional uniform; a crisp white shirt, white knee socks, black loafers with a Velcro strap, a blue blazer with the school crest, blue skirt, and blue and red rep tie. But most unusually for a student entering the Headmaster’s inner sanctum, the young woman was wearing an enormous grin.

“So what do you think?” The girl said, putting her arms out.

“What do I think of what?” Jack said, wondering what this slip-of-a-girl was doing in his office.

“This, silly!” The girl said, holding out her arms as she twirled in a circle.

Jack was in no mood for girlish games or riddles, and said as much.  “I am the acting Headmaster for today, so I suggest you state your business with me, young lady, clearly and succinctly.”

Much to his chagrin the girl laughed out loud at his displeasure.  “Oh, goodness, Jack!  You really don’t recognize me, do you?”

The voice seemed familiar, but… Jack fumbled in his jacket pocket and put on his spectacles. He squinted as he regarded his smiling student. Could it be?

“For goodness sakes, Jack, clean your glasses. You’re looking at me like I’m a student!”

“Elizabeth? Is that really you?”

Elizabeth grinned broadly. She had been the new Headmistress of the school for 3 months and, although things had been going well, she felt there was something missing. As the person in charge, it was hard to get a feel for how the place really ticked as both teachers and students stiffened into formality whenever she walked into a room. It was an academic version of the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principal, where the very act of observing changed the outcome.

Jack had agreed that it might be a good idea for her to sit in on classes for the day, but had laughed out loud when she had suggested disguising herself as a student to observe the school. He wasn’t laughing now, however. He was simply staring at her, mouth agape.

“Do you like my new look, Jack? They say blondes have more fun. We’ll see, I suppose.”

Elizabeth had died her hair blonde, and traded in her stern Wayfarer glasses for contact lenses. Always youthful looking, Elizabeth had been mistaken for a student at her very first teaching job, and since that time had always dressed in a way that emphasised power and authority; heels, pencil skirts, tasteful pearls and makeup, tailored suits, and her carefully coiffed hair up in her bun.

Now Elizabeth’s blonde hair, tied into two pigtails with a bit of blue yarn matching the school colours as per dress code regulations, hung loosely around her shoulders. Her face was freshly scrubbed and make-up free. And her immaculate Headmistress’s suit had been replaced with an impeccably crisp example of a proper English school uniform.

“My file is in your inbox, as per procedure, sir,” she teased, still enjoying Jack’s befuddlement at the totality of her metamorphosis.

As Jack perused her file, Elizabeth explained.

“My name for today is Brittany Brown. Brown was my mother’s name. And Brittany…”

“You don’t have a PE class on your schedule,” Jack said disapprovingly. “But I assume you have a proper PE kit?”

“Yes, it came with the rest of the gear. But the knickers are a bit snug, and I thought…”

“Proper fitness is essential. I’ll instruct my secretary to replace this study hall period with a PE class.”

Elizabeth frowned. She had purposely picked a week where her secretary was on vacation, reasoning that she would be the hardest to fool and her absence would make it easier to slip her paperwork into the system. It hadn’t occurred to her that this meant the new secretary would be following Jack’s instructions, not hers.

Jack frowned. “I notice that you did not fill out the corporal punishment authorization form. This should be completed, don’t you think?”

“I don’t see why.”

“Because completion of these forms is mandatory and also corporal punishment for misbehaviour is one of this school’s honoured and sacred traditions.”

“Oh bosh on you and your traditions, Jack,” Elizabeth said, rolling her eyes. “If you and your lot were running England we’d still be sailing around in wooden ships and fighting the thirteen colonies.”

“And have the better England for it. Discipline made the Empire.”

“Don’t worry, I haven’t gotten rid of your beloved canes,” Elizabeth said, glancing at the cane and strap hanging on the hooks in the still open cupboard behind him. “Not that I use them much.”

“Yes, I know. Elizabeth, you know I like you but some of the Governors on the Board do not, and think you’re too young for the job. I understand you want to try new ways, but there’s been some talk that since you took over discipline has gotten a bit lax.”

Jack frowned as the schoolgirl in front of him crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Jack frowned. Now she was ACTING like a teenager!

Annoyed at the insolence in her answer, and inspired more than a bit by her schoolgirl appearance, Jack responded by turning and taking the school’s venerable old cane out of the cupboard.

“Perhaps,” he said, weighing the cane in his hand. “But I can’t help but wonder if the fact that the school you attended did not use corporal punishment might be at the root of the problem.”

“What are you getting at, Jack?”

“You wished to experience what it is like to be a student for the day. Part of that experience is to be subject to discipline, is it not?”

“I suppose,” Elizabeth said haltingly.

Seeing she was on the defence, Jack pressed forward. “You suppose? Suppose what? ‘I suppose’ might be an acceptable answer for the Headmistress if we were having a polite conversation among peers, but ‘I suppose’ is hardly an appropriate answer for Brittany Brown talking to her Headmaster, is it?”

“No, I suppose…  No, sir, it’s not.”

Elizabeth had quite a bit of experience in theatre, and part of her disguise was a change in tone and accent, less posh, a bit less of the heightened Received Pronunciation she used to intimidate the girls and a bit more working class, without going all Eliza Doolittle. Without even thinking she slid into her new voice.

Jack fought the urge to smile.

‘Brittany’ interlaced her fingers and looked down, nervously polishing the front of her right shoe with the back of her left stocking. Now the self-confident headmistress looked and sounded precisely like the schoolgirl she very much appeared to be.

Jack ran the cane through his fingers as his newest student eyed the object warily. “We have established that discipline is an integral part of the experience here, which leaves the matter of your incomplete form.”

Jack put down the cane and held out a fountain pen for his worried student.  Slowly, tentatively, Elizabeth walked forward.

“You may sign using your legal name,” the Headmaster said. “Thereafter I will address you as ‘Brittany’, or ‘Brown’, and you will address me as ‘Headmaster’, or ‘Sir.’  Okay?”

“Yes, Headmaster,” Elizabeth said, her voice sounding far younger than it did when she entered the study a few minutes before.

Taking the pen, Elizabeth looked down at the form.  Her mind was swimming, even before she caught key words like ‘authorised’, ‘discipline’ and ‘corporal punishment’.

There was a checkbox for opting out, although selecting it was highly discouraged and in practice the box was rarely used. Seizing on the possibility, Elizabeth turned to her Headmaster.

“I can always opt out,” she said hopefully. “After all, I’m an excellent student.”

“I’m sure. But the exemption is only used for medical conditions, and traditionally requires review by the Governors. If you’d like to appear before the Board of Governors in uniform and explain your case…”

Elizabeth blanched at the thought. “But I’m a good girl!” She whined.

“Then you have nothing to fear in signing the form. Come now, it’s just a formality, provided you behave yourself. And I believe it’s nearly time for your first class.”

Elizabeth glanced up at the clock. Only two minutes until the first bell, and she still had to get her books. It simply wouldn’t do to be late to her first class on her first day.

Quickly she checked the box authorising her punishment and signed and dated the form.

Jack took the form, examined it, and placed it in her file. “Very good, Brittany. I intend to treat you precisely the same as any other student. Uniformity is my watchword, alongside tradition and discipline.

Elizabeth felt a tiny shiver as Jack picked up the school cane and bent it in a circle, testing its springiness. “Discipline has grown rather lax around here.  But I think if I get a chance to set a few examples today, the girls will quickly fall back into line.”

Elizabeth flinched as Jack swished the cane through the air, instinctively reaching back to cover her bottom. Jack, noticing her panicked reaction, smiled, and swished the cane again, enjoying the sight of the pigeon-toed young woman flinching and biting her lip as the cane whistled through the air.

Elizabeth had quite a giggle modelling her new school uniform in the mirror, and had been delighted that she looked enough like a student to fool everyone who saw her. But now, standing in her school uniform under the shadow of the Headmaster’s cane, she felt an inexplicable sense of dread.

Engrossed in examining his cane, the Headmaster addressed her typically. “You are dismissed, Brown. Run along to class.”

Brittany, feeling very relieved to be dismissed from her headmaster’s stern presence, beat a hasty retreat for the door. She could feel his eyes on her as she left and, head down, walked quickly past the new secretary and into the hall.

Elizabeth knew her disguise was good, but she had been worried someone might recognize her. Although she passed several students well known to her on the way to the headmaster’s office, no one paid her any special notice beyond that which an unfamiliar student would receive.

‘Uniformity indeed,’ she thought glumly. The uniform was doing its work of turning her into just another schoolgirl. She had entered her office as the headmistress, but had left as Brittany Brown, the old school’s newest pupil. It was horribly scary, but also terribly thrilling. She was a real schoolgirl, with rules and teachers and lessons and, yes, the threat of the cane if she misbehaved. It was strange, new, and dreadfully, horribly, wonderfully exciting.

Her fear soon faded. Math and English went well. No-one recognised her and she quickly fell in with the other girls, reading Shakespeare aloud and doing her calculus problems on the board. Always an excellent student, ‘Brittany’ had read the syllabuses and had come to class prepared.

Third period chemistry was a success as she impressed Mr Rams with her knowledge of molarity and her expertise in titration. Everyone accepted her as a student, which was both reassuring and a bit unnerving for, try as she might, she couldn’t stop thinking about the cane. Would Jack really punish her if she got into a difficult situation? She had used the strap on a girl’s palm once or twice, but had never used the cane. She wondered what it felt like. Could it really be as bad as the girls said?

During the third-to-fourth period class change, she noticed Sara Coxly walking stiffly, as if she had pulled a muscle, or had something in her pants. It was only when she heard two of the girls whispering that Elizabeth realized what she was seeing.

“She got the cane,” one girl said to another. “Two strokes for bullying and shoving another girl into a locker. Jane Mitchell got the strap for backchat, and Lisa Rogers got the slipper. He gave it to them skirt up, right across their knickers.”

Elizabeth blushed a bit at the last revelation. She knew that Jack, ever the traditionalist, believed in giving it to girls on their knickers; indeed, he probably would have taken their knickers down if he thought he could get away with it. But it was a preference that had never really concerned her until now. Getting the cane was bad enough, but having to raise your skirt for the headmaster was the sort of shameful humiliation that made every schoolgirl, ‘Brittany’ included, blush from tip-to-toe.

Elizabeth told herself that she should relax. Her first three classes had gone swimmingly. In fact, Brittany was the star pupil. Slowly she her felt her old confidence returning. She could do this. If she kept her head down no-one would notice her, and she could get through the day. But it was her very confidence that would prove to be her undoing.

It was during her fourth period History class that disaster struck. Mr Kingsley was one of the school’s least gifted instructors and Elizabeth had campaigned unsuccessfully to have the old codger sacked. Even he seemed to be bored with his lectures, preferring to ogle the girls doing their callisthenics in their gym knickers just outside his classroom window. His leering gaze was one of the reasons she had taken Physical Education off her schedule, until her headmaster put it back on.

Ignoring Mr Kingsley’s incessant droning, Elizabeth pondered her encounter with Jack that morning. When Jack had told her she would be subject to the cane, even then she hadn’t considered the strokes might be delivered across her knickers. Although it wasn’t strictly required, she had chosen to wear a pair of navy blue school knickers, figuring it would help if she could feel the part right down to her undies. As with her gym kit, the knickers she had purchased turned out to be a bit tighter than she would have liked, although she had kept them, reasoning that it would help her feel the part. A strapping or caning was shameful enough, but being punished across the seat of her drum-skin tight school knickers was a humiliation she could scarcely imagine.

Elizabeth was so entranced in her thoughts she was startled to hear her teacher loudly call her faux name.

“BRITTANY, I’m speaking to you,” he said, snapping her out of her trance.

“I’m sorry sir, I wasn’t listening. Might you repeat the question?”

The girls tittered as Mr Kingsley glowered. “Inattention in class is no laughing matter,” he chided. “I asked when Charles II was executed?”

Now it was her turn to titter. “Never, Sir. Charles II died of natural causes in 1685, although some have speculated he may have been poisoned. I presume you’re thinking of Charles I, who was executed on January 30, 1649.”

The precision of the correction elicited more tittering from the girls and a red face from Mr Kingsley, who was clearly not amused. “I am the teacher here, and I can assure you, it was Charles II who…”

“Brittany’s right, sir,” one of the girls said, meekly raising her hand. “It says so right in the book.”

“Yes, sir, she’s right,” another girl said. “Page 347, 3rd paragraph. She even got the date right. January 30, 1649.”

The class giggled as Elizabeth grinned up at the now fuming Mr Kingsley. She knew she should let it lie, but unable to resist the urge to play to her laughing audience she added: “See? You’re so boring that even you’re not paying attention.”

The class exploded in laughter as Mr Kingsley ineffectually pounded a desk to maintain order. “That’s the sort of cheek that earns a girl a trip to the headmaster’s office, young lady!”

Laughing with the other girls, Elizabeth couldn’t resist the fun. “At least it would get me out of class,” she joked.

But to Mr Kingsley it was no laughing matter. Much to Elizabeth’s surprise he marched to the front of the room and grabbed a blank sheet of paper. Elizabeth felt her spirits sink as she watched him hastily scribble a note, which he then folded up and handed to her.

“Headmaster’s office!” He snapped. “Now.”

Scooping up her book and folder, Elizabeth headed out the door, keeping her head down to avoid looking at the other girls.

Elizabeth quickly scanned the note as she walked down the hall. “Insubordination”, “Disruptive behaviour”,  “Disrespectful.”  But it was the last sentence that caused her eyes to bulge.

‘Elizabeth was grossly defiant and insulting, making fun of me and totally disrupted (sic) my class. Six of the best would teach this little miscreant a lesson she sorely needs!’

Elizabeth gasped. ‘Six-of-the-best,’ she thought. “Sorely indeed!”

The word ‘miscreant’ threw her a bit, at least until she caught her reflection in one of the school windows. Dressed in her school uniform and nervously clutching her incriminating pink punishment note she DID look like a naughty schoolgirl, a 5 foot 4 inch miscreant on her way to see her Headmaster for a good thrashing!

Swallowing, Elizabeth hurried to the headmaster’s office, walking fast but not running, arriving much sooner than she would have liked.

By the time she arrived at the office, there were already three other students sitting on the long wooden ‘bench of doom’ as it was known in the days before Elizabeth had relaxed discipline considerably. Now the old ways were back in place with a vengeance and none of the girls on the bench seemed happy about it. Elizabeth turned her pass into her secretary, who didn’t even bother to look up at her as she stamped it in the time clock and placed it in a growing pile of punishment referrals.

Without a word Elizabeth joined the other frowning girls sitting on the uncomfortable wooden bench. ‘Bench time’ was designed to give a girl time to think, which is precisely what Elizabeth did.

Elizabeth had never been punished in school, and a part of her was deeply curious about what it might be like. But would Jack really do it? He had certainly seemed willing that morning.

‘Brittany’ reflected on her actions. Even if she was right about Charles I, she had been grossly insubordinate and disruptive. If one of her students had behaved as she had it would be a week’s detention at the very least; no question about it. She knew she deserved to be punished. But to what degree? Brittany was a schoolgirl now, which meant that decision was up to her ‘headmaster’. And the corporal punishment form had been signed.

Brittany was surprised to see the other girls on the punishment benches. She suspected the school’s old guard, delighted that the strap and cane were back in use, might be settling scores. Precisely how those scores would be settled became apparent when the clock struck high noon. The hallway bells rang, and through the door the grandfather clock in the headmaster’s office began slowly tolling.

‘Ask not for whom the bell tolls,’ she thought grimly.

As the 12th gong finished, the door opened and Jack, not even bothering to look at the line of girls, instructed his secretary to: “Bring the first one in,” as he grabbed he the batch of punishment notes.

The school secretary, acting as the official witness, disappeared into the headmaster’s office with the first girl on the bench.

Brittany and the other girl left behind listened carefully. There were murmuring voices indicating a brief exchange, with the headmaster’s voice being the louder and more distinct. After a brief silence there was a loud CRACK followed by a loud girlish cry.

Elizabeth flinched at the sound, jumping slightly off her seat as she did so.  The strap!

Another crack of the strap, another girlish shriek. Sobbing. Elizabeth flinched again.

A moment later the door opened. The sobbing student was still wiping away her tears and struggling to walk out the door when a scowling Jack Masters, strap in hand, beckoned the next girl in by crooking his finger at her.

The door closed. After a slight pause there was another a flatter, duller sound.

TWHACK! THWACK!  THWACK! THWACK!

It was the slipper this time, but it was four strokes. The door opened, and another snivelling girl struggled to pull her skirt back over her bottom as she staggered out the door.

The executions were swift and severe. Brittany was reminded of Albert Pierrepoint, the famous English hangman who could hang a man in 7 seconds. She wondered how Jack even had time to hear the girl’s side of it. Remembering his enthusiasm for discipline, she wondered if he really cared. She knew she would find out for herself soon enough.

Her ten minutes on the bench seemed like ten years, and the softly ticking clock beat like a hammer pounding in her head. By the time her turn came, she was sweating bullets. When the door opened and Jack beckoned her in with a crooked finger like the Grim Reaper, she shuffled in like the others.

The headmaster scanned the punishment note with a practiced eye.

“What do we have here? Insubordination? Disruptive behaviour? Making fun of the teacher? A bit brazen, don’t you think? Tell me Miss Brown; do you want to be punished?”

The question threw the trembling ‘student’ a loop. She knew she deserved to be punished, but she hadn’t considered whether she had misbehaved on purpose. On some subconscious level had she violated the rules deliberately?

With no answer from the cotton-mouthed culprit in the dock, her headmaster spoke. “No matter. It’s natural for girls to test boundaries. And it’s my job to enforce those boundaries and draw the line. Don’t you agree?”

Elizabeth quivered under the Headmaster’s stern gaze as he tapped his open palm with the long yellow cane the line could be drawn with.

“Six-of-the-best seems a bit severe.” He offered. “One stroke for each of your four offences should suffice.”

Four strokes! Elizabeth could scarcely believe her ears. For a brief instant she considered refusing, but it would be impossible to do that without tipping off the school secretary, who had come into the room fully expecting to see a naughty schoolgirl punished. And if she didn’t go back to class, or went back to class without having been punished, tongues would wag. No, that would never do. For better or worse, she was Brittany and having made her bed, she had to lie in it, or bend over it, as the case may be.

Stammering and stuttering, a desperate Brittany babbled her explanation. Her headmaster was unimpressed.

“We’re here to discuss the execution of YOUR sentence, not the execution of Charles I. It seems Mr Kingsley neglected to mention you were not paying attention in class. We will add a stroke for that. All right, Miss Brown, bend over, touch your toes, and raise your skirt.”

“But sir…”

“Your amateurish attempt to act as your own barrister has already earned you an extra stroke, Miss Brown.  We can make it six if you’d like.”

“No sir,” Brittany said hastily. “Thank you, sir.”

Brittany hated herself for thanking him, but as she was now totally ensconced in her new identity it seemed appropriate. ‘You have this coming,’ she thought as she bent over and assumed the humiliating position. ‘He promised to treat you like the other girls and you agreed. Any other girl who misbehaved this way would be punished.’

Brittany reached back and flipped up her skirt, keeping her legs ramrod straight and her bottom high as she revealed her tight blue knickers to the headmaster and his secretary. The knickers were tight and she had never felt so vulnerable.

Brittany whimpered with fear and shame as the headmaster tapped her bottom twice with the stick, measuring the first stroke. Taking a step back, he pretended to test the cane by slashing it through the air.

SWISH!! SWISH!

Brittany’s bottom cheeks clenched and unclenched at the fearful sound, and she leaned forward a bit as if she had been struck. Jack Masters smiled. His newest ‘student’ had a lovely bottom, and he would have been delighted to make her stand like this all day. But he had lots of other things to do and he had vowed to treat her as he would any other pupil in his charge.

“You felt quite smart back-chatting Mr Kingsley. Do you feel smart now, Miss Brown?” The Headmaster asked sarcastically, tapping her clenching bottom cheeks for emphasis.

“No, no sir, I don’t, sir,” she stammered. Oh, why didn’t he start? This build-up was agonizing!

Her wish was soon granted.

Swish!

Thwack!

“Awwwwwwwwww!”

The first stroke was dead centre, fast and hard. She had barely registered it in her brain when the second stroke landed.

SWISH!

THWACK!

“Awwwwwwwww! Oh please, sir!”

Jack Masters answered her plea with the third stroke.

SWISH!

THWACK!

“Arrrrrrrrr! Oh, please! Please! It hurts!” Unfortunately the tight school knickers had moulded closely against her. Now, like the well caned schoolgirl she was, she lifted her right foot and spread her legs from the pain.

“Maintain your position!” The Headmaster snapped, tapping her legs with the cane for emphasis. It’s supposed to hurt, you silly girl. It’s part of the learning,” Jack patronized.

SWISH!

THWACK!

“Awwwwwwwwww!”

“One more, for your inattention in class. Perhaps sitting on this next stroke the rest of the day will keep you focused on your lessons.”

SWISH!!

THWACK!

“Owwwwwwwww!”

“You may rise. Have you had gym class yet, Miss Brown?”

“No sir. After lunch sir,” she added, struggling to smooth down her skirt even as Jack Masters led her by the arm towards the door.

“Excellent. It will do the other girls a world of good to see your tramlines in the shower. I’m going to talk to your gym instructor. There will be no malingering because of your punishment. If you don’t make a proper go of it, You might be back here after school. Are we clear, young lady?”

“Crystal clear, sir,” she said as she shuffled out the door, one hand holding her bottom as she continued back into the hallway.

Five minutes later Brittany Brown, still wiping away her tears, walked stiffly into the lunchroom, struggling to ignore the whispers, titters, and gasps as everyone watched her make the walk-of-shame. Her ‘cane walk’ was slow, awkward, and hesitant, which gave her ample time to listen to the school discussing her plight.

“She got the cane, all right.”

“Quite a good dose of it, from the way she’s walking.”

“How many strokes do you think she got?”

“I don’t think she’s had gym yet. Maybe we’ll see in the showers.”

It was hard to walk without moving her bottom, and the new girl was no better at it than any of her peers. Nonetheless the grinning Mrs Webster made her walk the entire length of the cafeteria to get her food.

Lunch was beef with corn. Brittany ate her meal standing up, just like the other girls who had been punished that morning. In 20 minutes she would join the rest of her class in running hurdles, and doing squats, sit-ups and jumping jacks on the athletics field directly across from Mr Kingsley’s classroom window.

It would be sheer agony for her to do her exercises in her drum-tight gym knickers with Mr Kingsley watching, but it did not matter. Uniformity was the order of the day.

The End

© Imreadonly 2015


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