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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Linda’s Bet

Story by Michael Wentwood from Janus 26
It was an act of bravado, the bet, but Linda didn’t want to lose face. When the new Headmistress had arrived with the clear intention of tightening things up, including re-introducing the cane at Shawborough School, there had been a lot of apprehension. But a month had gone by and it was obvious that the dreaded cane would be kept in the background as a last resort rather than being put to regular use.
In common with most of the girls at Shawborough Linda was very relieved about this, particularly as she had a reputation for being one of the naughtiest girls in the school. The casual observer, however, although he may have noticed the sparkle in Linda’s eyes would be far more likely to have been struck by her remarkable appearance. Mature for her years, her beautiful dark hair falling carelessly round her shoulders, many an eye was turned by the sight of Linda in her Shawborough uniform on the journeys to and from school.
Linda cared about her appearance and unlike many a modern girl, her care extended to her school clothes so that she never failed to look immaculate in her smart navy blue uniform. She was more aware than most of her contemporaries that a girl could be as stunningly attractive, if not more so, in uniform than in supposedly more mature attire. Certainly the young man in the grocer’s shop where Linda frequently shopped for her mother never succeeded in adding up the bill correctly after a glance from Linda’s gorgeous brown eyes.
Never malicious but rather mischievous, Linda had been very careful since Mrs Roberts’ arrival. Nevertheless she had had one or two minor scrapes with authority during the term, and had landed herself with more than one detention.
But then the bet had been made. It was a very silly bet. The girls had been chatting, as they often did, about Mrs Roberts and whether she had any intention of ever putting the cane into actual use. Paula, a pert bright girl, herself no stranger to mischief, had offered the opinion that it would never actually happen. Linda disagreed, and suggested that a month was not enough to prove anything. They should wait and see.
‘All right, Linda,’ Paula had said, ‘I bet you couldn’t get yourself caned whatever you did.’
‘Oh, I bet I could,’ replied Linda without really thinking.
‘Right, you’re on,’ Paula came back in an instant. 
Linda blushed. Her bravado would not allow her to withdraw. It was all a joke, but the girls thought it was a terrific idea. They teased Linda with lots of questions about how she would do it. Paula insisted there should be a time limit. Linda had to be caned within a fortnight or she lost the bet.
Although they were good friends, there was always an undercurrent of rivalry between Linda and Paula, both a little too confident and mature for their years, perhaps; although in truth they still felt more than a little fear of Mrs Roberts. One thing was certain however, and that was that no other girl in the school would get an inkling of that fear. Linda and Paula would remain the idols of those who wished to defy authority but would never dare. And they were remarkably alike, each with long dark hair and brown eyes, and both were strikingly attractive and shapely for their years. Paula, however, displayed none of Linda’s attention to her appearance and often had to be reminded that a tie was a compulsory part of school uniform. The tie would be grudgingly produced from her satchel, and tied in the sloppiest possible fashion unless the teacher had the resolution to put her in her place, which wasn’t easy with Paula. In the normal way Paula might have been jealous of Linda if she really succeeded in getting herself caned, but the way it had worked out seemed ideal. She knew Linda would be the heroine of the hour if she won the bet, but much of the credit would fall to Paula as the architect of the bet. Credit without caning, that appealed to Paula, whose position as one of the ‘naughty heroines’ of the school would not allow her to admit that she secretly dreaded the cane.
----//----
‘You’re not really going to take the bet seriously, are you?’ Linda’s closest friend Sarah said on the way home.
‘Oh, I don’t know,’ Linda replied vaguely. ‘I’ll think about it.’
In fact Linda thought about little else for the next few days. The bet seemed to get hold of her mind. It was very stupid, she knew, but then it would be quite something to show everyone she could go through with it. But how? The question turned over and over in her mind. At times she would dismiss it as lunacy, but always the thought returned.
A week passed, and in the normal way Linda might have let things go and forgotten about the silly bet, but Paula and a number of the other girls would not leave off. She was teased daily about it, until the subject became a preoccupation, almost an obsession, and at the very least a point of honour. She’d really rather like to win the bet, and it can’t be the end of the world to be caned, she thought. It would probably be over quite quickly, and perhaps Mrs Roberts wouldn’t be too hard on her the first time. First time, she thought, it had better be the last too! If she were to do something to get herself caned, it had to be something serious but she didn’t want to do anything nasty or wicked. She racked her brains, but nothing came.
On the way home with Sarah, they were chatting about this and that, when suddenly it came. Truancy. It couldn’t possibly harm anybody else. It wasn’t nasty or vicious, but it would certainly be viewed very seriously.
‘Don’t wait for me in the morning, Sarah, I might be a bit late. I don’t want to cut it fine for you.’
She didn’t say just how late she intended to be, but she was now resolved on her course of action. She knew it was stupid, but she was going to do it. She would show them.
Next morning, Linda got up as usual, put her school uniform on, had breakfast and left the house. Instead of going to the bus stop, however, she went to the local park, walked around for a while until she was sure her mother would have left home for work, and then returned home. She had done it now. She’d gone this far; she would have to go all the way. The butterflies had entered her tummy and were plaguing her. How foolish this all was. She regretted the childish dare, but it was impossible to back out now. She changed into jeans and T-shirt and lounged around the house. Images of Mrs Roberts and the cane flitted before her eyes.
She tried to read a book but had to put it down, her palms clammy with fear. Later she went for a walk in the park. At lunchtime she could eat nothing. The day passed slowly. When it was time for her parents to come home she changed back into school uniform so they wouldn’t think there was anything odd. The evening passed normally enough although she couldn’t settle down to anything. But what would tomorrow bring?
Linda slept fitfully that night, nervous and anxious, dreading the dawn, but wishing the long night hours would pass. The light from the window gradually brightened, bringing with it the new day she feared so much. Her uniform lay over the chair near the bed, reminding her constantly of school. Eventually it was time to rise, and she slowly donned the navy blue school clothes, brushed her blazer and skirt, pulled up her socks and straightened her tie. Her day had begun.
She met Sarah at the end of the road.
‘What happened yesterday? Were you ill? I thought you were just going to be slightly late.’
‘Oh, I’m all right now.’
Linda didn’t know what to say, even to Sarah. The bus ride passed all too quickly, and soon they were through the school gates. One or two of Linda’s friends passed comments about her rapid recovery but she couldn’t tell if they suspected the reason. Assembly passed by, and the girls repaired to the classrooms. The first big obstacle, register time, was to come. Linda’s form-mistress, Miss Lovelady, called the register. Each girl in turn acknowledged her presence; a full turn-out.
‘Linda Grey, may I have your note, please?’
‘Note, Miss Lovelady?’
‘Your note, Linda, concerning your absence yesterday.’
‘I haven’t got one Miss.’
‘What do you mean? Have you forgotten to bring it? Have you left it at home?’
The atmosphere was electric. The girls had cottoned on; Linda had taken up the challenge of the bet. Paula sat bolt upright at her desk, delighted that her bet had produced this drama. There was a lengthy pause.
‘I’m waiting, Linda. I require a note excusing your absence from school yesterday.’
‘I haven’t got one, Miss.’
Another pause, then, ‘Are you telling me you were absent without permission and without good reason yesterday?’
‘Yes, Miss Lovelady.’
‘Very well, Linda, see me after this lesson.’
How the lesson dragged. Linda could not concentrate. It was obvious that Miss Lovelady was well aware of that. She also became aware that none of the other girls were concentrating.
‘Private study for the rest of the lesson, girls. Linda Grey, please come outside.’
Linda rose from her desk and walked slowly to the door, thirty pairs of eyes following her with total concentration and fascination. Hardly a girl in the class had thought she would really take up that bet, but there didn’t seem to be much doubt that was precisely what she had done.
Linda closed the door behind her and faced Miss Lovelady. Tall, 40 years old, always impeccably dressed, Miss Lovelady was universally respected as being fair and straight. In all truth she was an insipid character, with none of the reforming fire of the Headmistress. Linda, in common with all the girls, thought she was all right as a form-mistress, but never in a million years could she have considered her a friend or confidante.
‘Now, Linda, what’s this all about’? Why were you absent yesterday?’
Linda was lost for words. She tried to croak an excuse but nothing would come.
‘I’m waiting, Linda. Have you a satisfactory explanation for your absence from school?’
‘No, Miss Lovelady’, Linda managed to say.
‘Do I understand that you played truant yesterday?’
‘Yes.’
‘Why, Linda? Why?’
‘I can’t say, Miss.’
‘You realise this will have to be reported to Mrs Roberts. She will most certainly require an explanation. Do you wish to tell me any more?’
‘I can’t, Miss Lovelady.’
‘Very well, Linda, please meet me outside Mrs Roberts’ study’ immediately after morning school. Now return to your work.’
Sixty eyes watched an ashen-faced Linda return to her seat. If only she could go back two days or two weeks and change everything. She was full of remorse for her foolishness, but nothing could now be altered. After morning school, Miss Lovelady had said; Linda could think of nothing beyond that.
Break came, and Linda was the focus of attention as never before. Question after question was fired at her. Yes, she admitted, she had stayed off school to try to win the bet. Yes she had got to see Mrs Roberts, no she hadn’t been told what would happen. No, she insisted, Miss Lovelady hadn’t told her she would be caned. The consensus was that she would get the cane for sure, and the news spread round the school like wildfire. As the rumour spread, it changed form as rumours do. Many versions said that she had already had the cane, and was probably going to be expelled, others gave bizarre versions of how she had been punished, including details of the bet Linda and Paula had made. Finally Paula exerted her right to question Linda.
‘OK, Linda, you’re doing well, but don’t forget we want proof before you win the bet. We want to see the stripes. Make sure you meet us in the cloakroom straight after lunch; we want to see.’
‘She may not get it today,’ offered Sally. ‘At my brother’s school they give them a date two weeks ahead when they’re going to get it.’
‘That’ll be tough on Linda.’ said Paula. ‘The bet requires that she be caned by the end of this week or she loses. That’d be quite fun, Linda, losing the bet and getting the cane. I like that.’
Eventually break was over and Linda was free of the banter. Try as she did, she could not settle to lessons. The teachers for the remainder of the morning knew nothing of her plight, and she found herself on the sharp end of their tongues on more than one occasion, eventually earning herself a detention to compound her worries.
The minutes ticked slowly by. Her body ached with fear and apprehension. She kept glancing at her watch. Eventually the time drew near, ten minutes, nine minutes... five minutes... two minutes, one minute... the bell. Morning school was over.
----//----
It seemed to Linda that she had to pass every girl in the school as she walked along the corridor to Mrs Robert’s study. All eyes were upon her; the school was agog with interest. Miss Lovelady was not there yet, so Linda had to wait outside the study with many inquisitive eyes peering from down the corridor. After a couple of minutes Miss Lovelady came. She told Linda to wait where she was while she went into the study, but almost immediately Linda was summoned. She found herself standing in front of Mrs Roberts’ desk, quaking with fear.
Linda had had only a couple of brief interviews with Mrs Roberts, each time on quite a mundane matter, certainly nothing to compare with this occasion. Even before she spoke, the strength of her character was frighteningly apparent to Linda, in spite of her slight physique. About 50 and greying, a Headmistress of the old school, Mrs Roberts dressed with a severe formality in grey suits which seemed to emphasise the gulf between her and her pupils. She was very much the disciplinarian.
‘Why were you absent from school yesterday, Linda?’
The girl struggled for words. Eventually she said quietly, ‘I’m sorry.’
‘I require an explanation, Linda. Why were you absent?’
‘No reason, Mrs Roberts. I’m very sorry.’
‘I assume that you had no good reason to be absent.’
‘Yes.’
‘Then you admit that you absented yourself from school without permission and without good reason, and that this is therefore a case of truancy.’
‘Yes.’
I think we are now agreed that you had no good reason, Linda. Why were you absent? What was in your mind?’
‘Nothing.’
‘Very well, Linda, as you choose to be uncooperative, I shall make a suggestion to you. The information I have received suggests that you stayed away from school as part of a wager. Is this true?’
Silence.
‘Speak, girl. Is it true?’
‘Yes.’ Linda spoke almost inaudibly.
‘In all my days as a teacher I think this is the most foolish thing I have ever heard. The information I have is that the wager required you to commit an act which would result in your being punished with the cane. I assume I am correct.’
‘Yes.’
Mrs Roberts rose from her seat.
‘Linda Grey, by your childish actions you have shown a complete lack of respect for school discipline, in being prepared to make it the subject of a ridiculous wager. I understand no money was involved, and I am relieved about that. However this in no way excuses your misconduct. You have been guilty of two offences, disrespect for school discipline and truancy. I shall pass over your obstructiveness in responding to my questions, as I assume your reason was embarrassment over your idiocy in this matter. Now, Linda, is there any more about this subject I need to know?’
‘No, Mrs Roberts.’
‘What have you to say for yourself?’
‘I’m terribly sorry. I know it was very, very foolish. I promise never to do anything like this again Miss.’
‘Very well, Linda, you will realise that I regard this matter with the utmost seriousness, and it will most certainly not be allowed to rest there. Please present yourself to me here immediately after school. Now go.’
White as a sheet, Linda emerged to face the outside world again. There was still a little time before lunch and she was soon waylaid by avidly interested friends. Did you get it, what was it like, what did she say, are you very sore?... a thousand questions deluged Linda. She could hardly get a word in, and before she knew what was happening, she was bundled into the cloakroom by a bunch of laughing girls. Let’s have a look, let me see, show your hands, Linda. Her hands were grabbed and held. They’re clear, the shout went up. Boo. She’s lost the bet.
‘What about her bum?’ suggested Rita to Linda’s dismay, and she was soon bundled over a bench. Ferreting hands had her knickers round her knees in no time. Clear. Nothing. She’s chickened out. At last she managed to speak.
‘Listen, I’ve got to see her again.’
When, when? She’s having us on, she’s lost the bet, you’ve failed. Linda, good try but it didn’t work, you’ve got three days left to find another way... the suggestions multiplied, how about murdering Miss Lovelady, someone suggested. Paula asserted herself again.
‘OK, let’s listen to what she’s got to say. Give her a chance. I want to hear all about it.’
Linda recounted the story and confirmed that she had to see Mrs Roberts again that afternoon. Many didn’t believe her, others said that a second visit in a day made it certain she’d be caned. Paula spoke up.
‘It’s quite simple. Linda says she’s got to see the Head at 4 o’clock. We’ll wait here. When she comes out, if she can produce the evidence she wins the bet. OK?’
There wasn’t much more to say, and they all trooped off to lunch.
----//----
Linda’s mind was in turmoil. On one hand she was sure that she was being summoned to see Mrs Roberts to be caned. On the other hand she suspected they wouldn’t be prepared to give her even the minor satisfaction of winning her bet, and would find some other unpleasant punishment for her. The afternoon was if anything worse than the morning, as the time dragged by and she could only think of what might happen at 4 o’clock. Eventually the bell went, and Paula was at her side in a flash.
‘Don’t forget, straight to the cloakroom when you come out. I want to see those stripes.’
The walk down the corridor was even more terrifying than it had been earlier in the day. Visions of the cane in Mrs Roberts’ hand floated before her eyes, thoughts of the awful disgrace she had brought on herself, the anguish of wondering how she would tell her parents if she got the cane, and, the most immediate thought of all, how much would it hurt. She hesitated for some moments before knocking on the door, glancing down the corridor at the inquisitive peering faces delaying their departure from school. She straightened her tie, made a last little ritual smoothing of her uniform, and knocked. The call to enter came immediately, and Linda found herself, alone and frightened, facing Mrs Roberts, who seemed more commanding than ever. A fire seemed to burn in her small piercing eyes, a fire which would brook no argument. However mature Linda may have felt when she was planning this crazy adventure, she felt quite the opposite now, a frightened and foolish schoolgirl.
‘I do not propose to give you a lengthy lecture, Linda. I am sure you are already aware of the extreme foolishness of your actions. I shall only say that I am displeased with your conduct in the extreme and that you have acted in the most reprehensible way that I have encountered in any girl since I arrived at this school.’
Linda winced at the words, and their implication that her conduct could incur a more severe penalty than had been the case up to now, during Mrs Roberts’ regime.
‘For showing complete disrespect for school discipline, I intend that you should attend detention class for the next three weeks. I have already entered this in the detention book.’
Linda relaxed inwardly. Detention was no fun, but she was really glad now to lose her bet. She had had some inner doubts, but the relief she now felt left her sure that she couldn’t care less about the bet, only about not being caned. She waited for Mrs Roberts to dismiss her.
‘On the question of your truancy, I take a very serious view of this offence. I think it will be of little satisfaction to you to learn that you are about to win your foolish wager. It was my hope that it would not be necessary to use the cane at this school. On this occasion I have no alternative.
Linda’s senses swam. This was it, the cane, and as well as three detentions. What an idiot she’d been. Could she beg forgiveness? She was about to make a plea but Mrs Roberts looked so severe, she didn’t dare to ask. It all seemed inevitable now.
‘You will see my cloak hanging on a hook on the door, Linda. Please move it to the next hook.’
Linda was a little surprised by this instruction but turned to obey it, and found herself momentarily facing the mirror on the study wall. She saw a schoolgirl, a young and foolish schoolgirl about to be put firmly in her place. Everything about her uniformed appearance reminded her of her position. The world of boyfriends and sophisticated adult life she fancied she was already entering seemed a million miles away. Her eyes lingered on her white knee socks, emphasising her youthfulness and her subjection to school discipline.
Not really understanding the reason for the instruction, Linda lifted the cloak carefully from the hook. As she moved it over to the next hook, it was what she saw under it that made her feel cold all over. There was a cane, which had been hidden by the cloak. She placed the cloak on the other hook.
‘Now bring me the cane, Linda.’
Terrified and shaking, Linda lifted the cane from the hook. It was the first school cane she had seen, and as she felt it in her hands she was aware of its springiness and was more than conscious of the damage it was likely to do. Slowly, reluctantly, she handed it to Mrs Roberts.
‘I shall give you a few moments to collect your thoughts and remember why you are being punished, Linda. You must resolve never to repeat your misdemeanours.’
She placed the cane on her desk. She moved towards the window, took a chair and placed it in the centre of the room. Linda knew her moment was at hand, and would have given anything for some magic relief to arrive, for Mrs Roberts suddenly to say, ‘I’ve decided to let you off now, Linda. Let this be a lesson to you.’ One glance at the severe and resolute Headmistress dispelled that hope. Mrs Roberts returned to her desk and picked up the cane.
‘Stand behind the chair, Linda.’ Her voice had become sharper, almost shrill.
Linda did as instructed, shivering and fearful, still confused. As Mrs Roberts moved round to her left, she waited for the command to hold out her hand. How many would she get? Would she be able to write afterwards? Or would they all be on the left hand? Mrs Roberts stood still for a moment.
‘Now, Linda, bend over the chair and take hold of the lowest rung at the front of the chair.’
It was only as she started to obey mechanically that Linda realised what was happening. She had just assumed she would be caned on her hands. How humiliating and embarrassing this was. She bent forward, and did as instructed. It was a strain to reach right down and hold the rung as she was told, and she felt her bottom raised high and made very tight. She really felt in deep disgrace, bending over like this, about to be caned, the first girl ever to be caned at Shawborough.
Her long hair fell down before her eyes; as she stretched down her bra seemed to tighten against her firm young breasts; her bottom started to quiver and ache in fearful anticipation of what was to come. Linda expected a sharp rat-tat of strokes immediately but it wasn’t like that. She had to wait for nearly a minute, absorbing her feelings of shame before something happened to send a further wave of cold, shivering fear through her. She sensed Mrs Roberts moving closer to her, then felt the hem of her skirt being lifted and placed over her waist, leaving only her brief navy blue school knickers to defend her against the cane.
Short but wiry, Mrs Roberts regarded the girl before her. A dedicated schoolmistress, totally devoted to the strict system of discipline, Mrs Roberts had never over-used the cane; always it had been there as the ultimate sanction. She had considered her method with great care over many years. Never did she hurry things; the dreadful waiting was vital and she knew full well what Linda would be feeling now. She had no doubts about the justice of the caning either; this girl certainly deserved it, and would be put in her place. She felt satisfaction as the girl kept still, obediently awaiting her punishment. Or almost still, for the girl’s limbs were now perceptibly trembling. Linda had acted in total defiance and disrespect of school discipline, but now she was totally submissive. Being made to bend over in school uniform and wait for the cane was the perfect way of bringing a girl like Linda down to earth.
And what dread Linda felt now. The bet was completely out of her mind. Only the stupidity of it remained, and the disgrace of having to bend over to be caned. Her mind was a storm of self-reproach and shame.
She heard it coming just that little bit in advance. There was a brief high pitched whistling sound and then the cane cracked into her bottom for the first time in her life. She felt the horizontal line of pain across her cheeks and the shock surged through her. As the cane withdrew the pain intensified in agonizing waves and surges, and Linda gritted her teeth against it. She tensed, awaiting the next stroke, but it didn’t come. The pause surprised her, but gave her time to think. Even if it stopped now nothing could change the fact that she had been caned; she had to suffer the disgrace of being a caned girl...
Then it came again, the same whistling swish in the air, the moment of dread before the sharp crack on her seat. She whimpered with pain and gripped the rung of the chair so tightly that she heard it creak, and feared she would break it. Her bottom writhed above her head, stung by two throbbing blazes. Linda held her place, dreading more strokes and longing for it to be over. Surely there wouldn’t be any more; this was a terrible disgrace, surely it was enough. But still she was waiting, still she was bending, submitting her tender bottom to the attentions of Mrs Roberts’ cane. She wanted to beg for an end to it, but didn’t dare.
Swish! Crack! Linda let out an involuntary cry of pain and the tears flowed from her eyes. The pain seemed to quadruple. The cane must have hit right on the mark of a previous stroke. She couldn’t possibly take any more. She wriggled her bottom, anything to avoid that cane, but she felt helpless. Then, fear oh more fear, she felt Mrs Roberts take hold of the top of her knickers. No, she thought, please don’t! But firmly and gently her knickers were being lowered, pulled down until they were round her ankles. I can’t possibly deserve this, she thought, and she sensed Mrs Roberts moving back to aim the cane again at her now completely defenceless bottom.
But Mrs Roberts made her wait, surveying with satisfaction her handiwork. One stripe a little high, then two more almost as one at the base of Linda’s buttocks, bright red stripes already forming the tramline effect that was the hallmark of the cane. She would be able to aim the remaining strokes carefully, watching for any unwanted bruising but making sure the punishment was one hundred percent effective. She drew back her cane again, totally dedicated to her system of discipline. She had before her a girl who thoroughly deserved to be caned, and she was going to make absolutely sure that she would get a caning to remember. There was no going easy, being merciful would do more harm than good in the long run.
Mrs Roberts slammed the fourth stroke right on the stripe of a previous stroke, and Linda yelled with pain, a deluge of tears flooding from her eyes, quickly dripping on to the floor. For some moments Linda could think of nothing but the pain; she couldn’t possibly take any more. After a few seconds it subsided to a sharp smarting, stinging feeling that still ebbed and throbbed most uncomfortably. How acutely Linda felt her foolishness now; the feeling in her bottom seemed to merge in her mind with feelings of disgrace, and submission to school discipline. All these thoughts were there as the fifth swish came, and the crack on her bottom produced an overwhelming pain that she would never forget. She writhed with agony, and realised that she had let out a moaning cry.
‘Keep still, Linda.’
Somehow Linda managed to obey, gradually calming her twitching body until it was still once more. She made no effort now to stem the tears and the sobbing as she waited, not knowing when the punishment would end. The prospect of a lengthy beating, fear of disobeying Mrs Roberts, and knowledge that she deserved the punishment were mixed in Linda’s brain. But all the sensations in her body were centred in that small area of her buttocks, now striped red with the marks of five strokes of the cane. Oh, it was just so awful, much worse than she’d ever imagined...
Swish! Crack! The sixth came, hard and true on that red area which was now a sea of pain. Linda’s legs shot backwards as she slumped, howling with agony, across the chair. Even so, her awareness of the Headmistress’ scrutiny had some effect on her reactions, for if she had been alone with that molten agony she would have screamed and screamed unashamedly. After a few moments her howls subsided to a steady sobbing, and she hauled herself up into her position, waiting for...
‘I suggest you stay there for a few moments to compose yourself. Linda. As soon as you are ready, you may go. I trust there will be no more truancy from you.’
Mrs Roberts hung the cane back on its hook, and replaced her cloak over it. Linda remained over the chair for nearly a minute before she felt able to move, then she stiffly rose, and recovered her knickers from around her ankles, pulling them up over her red and stinging bottom. She carefully smoothed her skirt down.
‘I’m very sorry about my conduct, Mrs Roberts,’ she managed to sob.
As she passed the mirror, she could see what a wreck she looked. She saw a chastened, tearful schoolgirl, soundly and effectively put in her place by the well merited thrashing she had just received. How conscious and ashamed she was of her smarting buttocks as she walked painfully to the door with her back to Mrs Roberts, and left the room.
The tears were still flowing gently, and she felt she would like to go and wash them away. But she knew she would have to face her friends soon, and it would be impossible to conceal the fact that she had been crying, so she decided to put a brave face on it, did her best to tidy her hair a little, and walked down the corridor to where she had seen a couple of ‘look-outs’ awaiting her reappearance. A mixture of feelings swept through her, shame at the disgrace she had undergone, fear of what her parents would say and think, alarm at being thought of throughout the school as the girl who had been caned. If only someone else could get it soon, she thought. Not least she thought of the pain that was still smarting and stinging her bottom as she neared the end of the corridor. But she also felt just a little pride at being the centre of attention: she would not want to let the others know how really humiliated she felt. Soon there was a group of girls outside the cloakroom, and from Linda’s tear-sodden face they immediately knew the answer to their questions.
‘She’s either a darned good actress or she’s won her bet,’ said Rita.
‘Well done, Linda!’ chimed in Paula. ‘But we still want the evidence. In the cloakroom, come on.’
Linda was hustled none too gently into the cloakroom. Consideration for the feelings of an obviously distressed girl was not high on the list of priorities when such excitement was in the air. Hands grabbed at Linda’s arms and raised them aloft.
‘It’s a hoax. She’s a phoney. She’s just crying from being told off. Paula wins.’
‘Stand back everyone, give her a chance,’ said Paula. ‘Let’s have her over the bench. Come on Linda, are you going to show us or do we have to force you?’
‘All right, all right,’ Linda sobbed, ‘give me a chance. I said I’d show you.’
The girls moved into a semicircle round the little bench, and gave Linda room. Her bottom was still stinging but she felt braver now, ready to show off her battle marks. She moved slowly to the bench and bent forward over it. Slowly she raised her skirt, but then her courage left her. She couldn’t take her knickers down.
She was too ashamed and embarrassed.
‘I said it was a hoax,’ a voice shrieked.
‘Come on,’ said Paula, ‘Do I have to take them down for you?’
‘All right, I can’t, I’m sorry.’
Paula stepped forward, and moved over to one side so that everybody could see. She took hold of the top of Linda’s knickers, and oh so slowly lowered them, inch by inch. Nothing, nothing, no marks, then, as the lower part of the buttocks was uncovered, whistles escaped from the lips of the astonished girls. An angry red stripe appeared, and as Paula lowered the knickers further, soon an even more marked area appeared, where the eyes of the onlookers could just about discern five separate stripes almost merged into one, and turning a deep purple. Linda had won her bet all right. She started to rise, feeling she had fulfilled her bargain.
‘Not so quick,’ said Paula, ‘We want to enjoy this. We don’t get a sight like this very often.’
She placed her hand firmly on Linda’s back and held her down, as the thrilled girls gazed their fill and enjoyed their unfortunate schoolmate’s discomfort.
Footnote: For a long time after that particular incident, it seemed as if Linda would remain the only girl ever to be caned at the school. Having in effect being caned by her own choice, it might have been thought that Linda would have no difficulty in avoiding a repeat of the experience by behaving herself sensibly. The reader may therefore be surprised to hear that, a full eleven months later, the girl involved in the next caning at the school was again Linda, by then over 19 years old. The details are a little obscure, but one certain thing is that, amazing though it may seem, the cause of the trouble was once again truancy.

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