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Thursday, 25 January 2018

Shop Talk

Story by Julie Holmes from Janus 52
Time and time again she stands before me, sometimes her head bowed in mock contrition, at other times her eyes staring defiantly into my own. I hand out another detention or set of lines, desperately wishing I had the power to prescribe a more appropriate punishment, one that would break through that devil-may-care attitude and cause her to acquire some self-discipline and self-esteem…
When I was a sixth-former, mini-skirts were de rigeur, England swung because we were all backing Britain, and peace and love abounded (or tried to). It was a time of hope and plenty and I was a member of the generation that knew it was strong and talented and in control of its destiny. Our big sisters burned their bras — we never started to wear them. Suspenders surrendered to tights, unless knee-socks were being worn to tease and titillate. I knew that my youth gave me power and I exulted in striding the streets, attracting the attention of every passing male, bestowing or denying favours according to my whim.
Like most of my peers, I needed a part-time job to finance my social activities, but after spending the summer vacation in a West End department store, I was looking for something less frenetic and closer to home and school, even if it meant a slight drop in income. School was in a fashionable area of north London and I lived just a short bus ride away on a council estate in a busy, somewhat less trendy neighbourhood. The good thing about the district was that it was teeming with opportunities — shops, pubs, a market, cafes. If a person couldn’t get work there, they had to be unemployable!
I’d heard that one of the fifth-formers had just left what sounded like quite an interesting job in a shop near the bus stop I got off at on my way home. In fact, I knew of several people who had worked there, but I didn’t think anything of its high turnover because it was quite common for people to switch jobs every couple of months or so. It was a Wednesday evening when I stopped off on my way home to ask there was a vacancy. A woman in her mid-20s was serving behind the sweet counter and when I made my enquiry she scuttled into the rear section of the shop, which was in fact a hairdressing salon.
A small, grey-haired man — I assumed it was her father — approached me. I repeated that l was looking for part-time work and wondered if they needed an assistant for either the hairdressing or confectionery side of the business. When he spoke his voice was heavily accented and his brown eyes somehow managed to both stare into mine and travel over my body simultaneously. I felt a trifle uneasy but wasn’t certain why, and in any case I wanted the job.
‘As it happens, we could offer some work, but you must be reliable,’ he said. ‘We’ve had young people work for us before but often they haven’t been dependable and haven’t had the right attitudes. You could work three evenings a week from four until six in the shop and all day Saturday in the salon.’
The hourly rate he quoted was a lot less than I’d been earning, but when I considered the savings I’d make in fares and travelling time it seemed a reasonable deal, so I agreed to start the Friday of that same week.
It worked out quite well initially. Whilst it wasn’t a career I wanted to pursue, I enjoyed working in the salon on Saturdays despite the rather menial tasks I was given. The evenings in the sweet shop were pleasant enough, although it seemed as though I was either caught in a three-ringed circus or on night-watch in a cemetery. At first, I would dash home from school to change out of my uniform before going to work, but then Mr Pirelli asked if I could start a little earlier a couple of times, so I started going straight to the shop from the bus. My uniform was a distinctive purple-and-grey and sometimes I felt a little self-conscious standing behind the counter in it so I would remove my tie, or exchange my blouse for a sweater, but mostly I didn’t bother and on more than one occasion my employer complimented my smart appearance when I was in uniform.
Maria and Mr Pirelli — he was her husband, not her father — seemed to have a rather strange relationship, but it was a time when ‘anything goes’ was the maxim an everyone’s lips, so I didn’t dwell on it. I was always intrigued by the way he referred to her as ‘Maria’, whereas she never called him anything but ‘Mr Pirelli’ when speaking about him. I knew from bits of business correspondence I saw that his first name was Hector, but I don’t remember ever hearing Maria say it. In fact, she said very little; she just seemed to glide about the premises, demure and acquiescent, doing anything that needed doing or that her husband told her to do. Mr Pirelli was small and decisive and surprisingly dominant — not just with his wife, but with staff, customers and reps as well.
Some of the girls at school asked how I was getting on and more than once I was quizzed on the quality of my working relationship with the Pirellis. I was puzzled by the amount of interest people were showing in my new job, but I had no grounds for misgivings, so I just shrugged noncommittally when the topic was raised.
At half-term, Mr Pirelli asked if I’d care to work full-time for the week and I leapt at the chance to earn some extra money. Although, in their different ways, Maria and Mr Pirelli stayed fairly distant, I was beginning to feel comfortable with the job and they seemed to accept me. The week before half-term there was some kind of upset with the full-time hairdressing assistant and on the Friday, after quite a bit of shouting and name-calling on both sides, she was sacked on the spot just after I arrived for that evening’s work. It meant that even with the other Saturday girl, we were rushed off our feet the next day and Mr Pirelli put a notice in the window advertising the vacancy. We had our first proper conversation together as a result.
‘You see, Julie,’ he told me, ‘Karen lacked discipline. She couldn’t concentrate on the task in hand; she couldn’t take criticism and she was slovenly. I cannot tolerate women who do not do what is required of them at the appropriate time and in the correct way. You know what I mean, don’t you?’ he asked, his brown eyes staring disconcertingly into mine.
‘I think so,’ I replied. ‘I always try to get things right and I’m told I’m a neat worker.’
I was a little embarrassed by the conversation, especially as I felt that somehow the dialogue was being conducted on two levels, but I didn’t have the key to the second. Attempting to end the exchange, I started tidying the sweet counter and turned partly away from him. He touched my elbow lightly but firmly, causing me to look back into his face.
‘Julie, I think we understand each other well. So far I am pleased with your work and I look forward to your being here full-time next week.’ He left me to attend to someone in the salon and I went upstairs to the Pirellis’ flat to make tea for us all. I now felt very uncomfortable about working there, but couldn’t give a single, definitive reason for my unease. After all, he’d simply praised my work and said what he expected from his employees.
On the Monday and Tuesday of half-term week, both sides of the business were fairly quiet and Maria spent much of the time upstairs, presumably doing housework. Mr Pirelli and I shared the work between us, talking occasionally about my schoolwork, our views on school uniforms, the history of the shop, modern trends and his favourite topic of discipline (or lack of it) and the younger generation.
After lunch on the third day, Maria went off to the cash-and-carry to replenish the stock, while her husband and I were left to deal with the sweet shop trade and the few hairdressing clients that came in. Mr Pirelli was the most talkative I’d ever known him, keenly asking my opinions on various topical subjects and putting his own views forward. He had — as I’d already come to realise — some very old-fashioned views about women’s roles, education and the recurring theme of ‘discipline’. At first I had thought he was talking about self-discipline, but as he elaborated, I realised he also meant enforced discipline as in corporal punishment, national service and the penal system. Although taken aback by the strength of his convictions, I put it down to his age and background, and I also assumed that — as one does — he was overstating his views in the heat of the debate.
By 5.30 things had become very quiet: we’d had no customers for 20 minutes and Maria had not yet returned. Mr Pirelli uncharacteristically decided to close the shop early and as he locked the front door he suggested I go upstairs and make a pot of tea for us both. It seemed a pleasant way of rounding off the day and Maria would probably be back any minute and appreciate a drink, so I moved towards the stairs. As I came from behind the counter, my boss stepped in front of me, blocking my path, and took hold of my hands.
‘That’s why I like you, Julie,’ he said. ‘I never have to tell you to do something twice. You are anxious to please.’
I smiled at him briefly and tried to step around him, but he tightened his grip and forced me to remain.
‘You like to please, don’t you Julie?’ he asked. I didn’t understand and just stood mutely looking into those hypnotic brown eyes. He pulled me closer to him and put his arms around me.
‘Come on now, Julie,’ he murmured into my ear, ‘you know I like you and you like me. You’re a good girl and you want to please me. Let’s go upstairs!
‘No!’ I yelled, trying to break free. ‘Let me go.’
But he simply held me tighter and tried to kiss me. His lips landed wetly on my cheek as I turned my face away. I was trying to pull free when we were both paralysed by a piercing shriek from the rear of the shop. Maria stood staring at us, her expression a mixture of shock and rage.
‘Maria,’ I stuttered, ‘it wasn’t my fault! He…’
But Maria wasn’t listening to any explanations. She leapt forward, wrenched me from her husband’s grasp and seizing me by the hair, stumbled up the stairs to the flat. I stumbled after her, protesting my innocence and screaming from the pain of having my hair pulled as savagely. For her part, Maria was intensely silent, merely grunting occasionally from the effort of hauling me up two flights of stairs.
When we reached the landing she paused, allowing me to free myself and straighten my clothing. I tried once more to convince her that what she had witnessed was none of my doing, but she was still not prepared to listen. Taking me by the elbow, she propelled me into the bedroom, slammed the door and sat herself down on the dressing-table stool, glowering at me with her normally-meek brown eyes.
‘Honestly, Maria…’ I began again, ‘I swear I didn’t do anything. Mr Pirelli decided to close early because there were no customers; it wasn’t my idea. He just got a bit carried away I suppose. Nothing happened, honestly.’
She still wasn’t being sympathetic, however. Silently, swiftly and efficiently she grabbed one of my arms and pulled me over her knees. I was too stunned to respond at first or even realise the full implication of her action until the first slap landed.
It fell squarely, loudly and not-too-painfully across the centre of my bottom. More than any other feeling, I was astounded and dumbfounded. I heard myself gasp as I struggled to raise myself on her lap, but she held me firmly in position and another resounding blow hit the crease of my buttocks where my panties began. This time I yelled, more from anger than real pain. My red mini-skirt had ridden up so that most of my nylon-clad bottom was exposed to her view. My scarlet panties were so brief and sheer that to all intents and purposes I might as well have been naked from the waist down.
‘NO!’ I shrieked, aware of each splayed finger landing on my right buttock.
‘STOP IT!’ I screamed as her palm struck the top of my thighs.
I was starting to burn from the treatment she was meting out to my bottom and my legs were kicking involuntarily. I couldn’t break free and tears of rage and humiliation began to course down my face. Maria’s hand continued to beleaguer my poor behind and I resigned myself to the unjust and awful punishment, vowing to leave and never return the moment she let up.
Actually, when the spanking did abruptly stop, I was too stunned to move. Her hand just froze in mid-air as she stared at the silent form of Hector Pirelli, watching from the doorway. However, she continued to hold me firmly in position until her husband motioned for her to release me and for me to stand up. He stared as I tried to summon my dignity and surreptitiously rub my smarting seat and brush away my tears. Maria seemed as ill at ease as myself and we gasped in unison as her husband stepped into the room and slipped the bolt on the door.
Julie! Maria is rightly upset by what she saw downstairs. No woman wants to witness her husband fighting off the unsolicited advances of an infatuated schoolgirl…’
‘Infatuated schoolgirl!’ I retorted fiery with indignity. ‘I’m not an infatuated schoolgirl: I’m an over-worked, underpaid hireling who was trying to fight off the unwanted attentions of a middle-aged lecher! I’m going home right now and my father will come in for my wages in the morning — if I don’t decide to go to the Police first and have you charged with assault.’
Maria stayed mute throughout our exchange, but fidgeted and stared at the floor nervously. Hector stood in front of me, raising my chin with his hand so that I was forced to gaze into those strange dark eyes.
‘I shall let your remarks go for the time being. Maria is my wife and understands the situation perfectly. She also understands, however, that it was wrong for her to act in the impulsive way that she did and that she must make amends.’ He turned away and gave his attention to Maria.
‘Maria, it is not for you to discipline the staff. It is certainly not for you to decide how they should be disciplined and to administer punishment without my assent. Our assistant here should have been told what measures her conduct warranted and been dealt with in an ordered, dignified manner You must make amends. Position yourself on the bed.’
His wife held his gaze and for a moment appeared to be about to argue, but then seemed to change her mind and amazingly crossed the room, removed her shoes and skirt and knelt, face-down, bottom-high on the double bed, all without saying a word. I was as dumbfounded by her underclothes as by her meek and bizarre conduct. Below her knee-length skirt were a pair of seamed black stockings, held in place by matching suspender-belt, and her raised buttocks were sheathed in black nylon hipster briefs. None of my contemporaries had ever owned a suspender-belt and despite her staid ways, Maria wasn’t so much older than us. Although I knew older men were supposed to find suspenders more erotic than tights, it was hard to accept that this strange pair could have a passionate private existence. Still, I could see an odd allure in the vertical and horizontal patterns made by the black adornment on the contrastingly pale thighs.
‘Maria,’ said Mr Pirelli sternly. ‘I think Julie deserves you to be fully prepared.’ I didn’t understand the implication of this statement, but Maria leapt off the bed and began protesting rapidly and loudly in some European tongue. Her husband listened silently until her tirade subsided, then said, ‘Maria, remove your pants.’
I stood speechless as Maria lowered her eyes, hooked her thumbs into the band of her panties and slid them to the floor, deftly slipping out of them. As she resumed her former position on the bed, I saw her thick bush of black pubic hair framed by her suspender-belt and stocking-tops and when she raised her buttocks high, the black nylon formed a mocking halo around the olive globes
‘You see that Maria is basically a dutiful wife,’ my employer intoned as though cataloguing the attributes of some prize livestock at an auction. ‘She dresses modestly and functionally, she obeys her husband as she vowed at our wedding and she accepts that all I say and do is right. She knows that she was wrong to chastise you in the manner she did and is now prepared to make amends. How many times did she strike you?’
The whole situation was so extraordinary by now that I had completely lost track of what Hector was saying. I just gaped at the pair of them until he repeated the question.
‘How many blows did Maria strike, Julie?’ he asked in his jerky accented tones.
‘I d-don’t know,’ I stuttered in a subdued voice, discreetly rubbing my throbbing behind. I felt myself blushing deeply with embarrassment at both the memory of my spanking and the matter-of-fact way in which it was being discussed. Mr Pirelli eyed me calmly, obviously not willing to be fobbed off by evasive responses.
‘About ten,’ I mumbled, avoiding his eyes and staring at a mark in the carpet near my right foot.
‘Ten,’ he repeated. ‘Ten harsh slaps on your nearly-naked bottom. You must feel very resentful. I would suggest you deal out a round dozen smacks because of the undignified way she treated you. Proceed.’
‘I’m sorry, Mr Pirelli, I don’t understand,’ I told him, afraid that I had really understood only too well. He took my elbow and gently guided me so that I was standing behind and slightly to one side of Maria’s kneeling figure. Despite myself, I found my gaze riveted to the black line of the suspender-belt crossing her lower back, the long dark suspenders leading down around her buttocks to the thick stocking-tops, low on her thighs. The smooth, flawless skin of her bottom was taut and — I had to admit — strangely inviting; where her thighs parted, tufts of the wiry pubic hair were visible. I stared, knowing what was expected of me but unable or unwilling to comply. It was almost surreal the way Maria knelt there, calm in her humiliation; and Mr Pirelli’s tranquil persistence was completely unnerving.
‘Julie,’ Mr Pirelli murmured, ‘you must show my wife how wrong she was in her handling of the situation she found us in. Maria knows she needs to be chastised. Maria, tell Julie you wish her to punish you.’ His tone became suddenly sterner as he addressed his wife. To my astonishment, without moving from her degrading position, Maria said softly but firmly:
‘Julie, I did you a great wrong and I wish the matter to be put right. Please spank my bare bottom twelve times.’
There wasn’t a tremor of emotion in her voice, but I was horrified by her words. I turned to her husband and silently shook my head.
‘Very well, Julie, if you find the situation difficult, I will administer the punishment while you observe. But because of your obstinacy, you will cause Maria’s suffering to be greater than if you had done as we had wished.’ He crossed to the dressing-table and picked up a large, broad backed hairbrush. Firmly moving me aside, he stood behind his wife raised his arm high and brought down the brush hard on her right buttock. The force of the blow knocked Maria slightly off-balance, but she righted herself without uttering a sound. I gazed in awe at the large red circle that appeared.
Again the heavy brush struck, this time on the left cheek, causing Mara to sprawl across the bed and gasp audibly. Without a word, she resumed her undignified posture and awaited the third stroke.
I gazed on, fascinated and revolted, crying and biting my clenched fists, but unable to look away or attempt to leave the scene.
Three more strokes landed in rapid succession: the first once more sent its victim sprawling flat across the bed, drawing a muffled cry from her; the next two landed close on her thighs as she lay prostrate and caused her to cry out in obvious pain.
Yet again, when she realised that the brush was not going to descend immediately, she dragged herself back into the prescribed position, though trembling and with all vestige of dignity gone. The right side of the visible flesh was now an angry red, with a smaller matching patch on her left buttock.
A heavy swipe landed on her left stocking-top. The sound echoed around the starkly-furnished room but Maria scarcely acknowledged it. She clawed at the bedclothes and kicked her heels uncontrollably, however, as two rapid cracks landed just a little higher, on the bare flesh.
I could stand no more. I grabbed at Mr Pirelli’s arm and begged him to desist. ‘Stop it! STOP IT!’ I yelled, but he shook me off, grunting ominously, ‘Leave me be; I’ll deal with you afterwards. Watch in silence.’
At the time I missed the full implication of his words and continued to plead silently on Maria’s behalf, but his staring gaze intimidated me and I felt forced to look away and observe his wife’s tortured rear. The poor girl was sobbing loudly, her muscles instinctively contracting in an effort to ease the pain, yet resisting what must have been an overwhelming urge to use her hands to rub away the discomfort.
‘Spread your legs wider,’ her husband instructed dispassionately. Maria obediently shuffled her knees further apart, exposing more of the wiry bush and displaying the soft unmarked flesh of her inner thighs in contrast to the scarlet of her punished behind. The brush was raised again, then descended in a swishing arc across the lower part of the cheeks, dangerously close to her more intimate folds. I heard a loud BLAP!! An animal cry of shame and pain arose from her throat and Maria toppled sideways.
Roughly her spouse pulled her into a standing position at the foot of the bed, indicated with a tap of his shoe against her ankle that she should spread her legs wider again and roughly pushed her head down into the bedspread. Her arms were naturally spreadeagled and she maintained this stance as the remaining three blows he had decreed landed accurately on the hitherto unmarked areas of skin. He seemed to use all his strength and I almost felt them myself. I was shocked.
‘Stand on the rug, Maria.’ she was told and with tears and obvious physical discomfort she shuffled to the faded pink rug where I realised she would be forced to observe her glowing red rear reflected back and forth between the mirrors on both the dressing-table and wardrobe. I squirmed inwardly in embarrassed empathy, the almost-forgotten sting of my own spanking suddenly throbbing warmly. If I’d had my wits about me I would have grabbed this moment to make a speedy escape but like a rabbit trapped in the beam of a car’s headlights I stood my ground until it was too late to save myself.
‘Now, Julie, you must learn to do as instructed by those in authority over you. I told you to punish Marie as she had chastised you — and you refused. My wife has already dealt with your original misdemeanour, but I will now teach you not to disobey me. Remove your pants.’
Although his words, given the events of the previous half-hour, were not entirely unexpected, I was still taken aback at what I heard. Nobody could dare to treat me in such a way: Maria was an hysterical jealous wife who had caught me by surprise; her husband was a hot-blooded continental type with old-fashioned views about male and female roles; I was a modern young woman who didn’t have to submit to their strange notions.
I started to move slowly towards the door, but Hector blocked my way and merely repeated his instruction. On reflection, I decided that I would be best advised to comply, get it over with and leave. As I removed my scanty knickers, images of Marie’s reddened flesh passed in front of me and my ears were filled with echoes of her cries.
I was motioned to drape myself over the same stool Maria had first sat on to spank me and although in this position my skirt rode up and exposed most of my bottom, my employer pulled it all the way back so that I was naked from my waist to my feet. At this, I put my head down, and would willingly have buried it in sand, for my cheeks were burning with shame. It didn’t matter so much that my bottom was going to be smacked again, as that he shouldn’t see my face or meet my eyes with his. I clenched my bum-cheeks and gripped the legs of the stool in anticipation of my fate, but there was no chance of it being executed and over with quickly, for first I was to be subjected to a lecture and verbal humiliation. I could have died…
‘Julie. you have disappointed me! You have the makings of a good employee, but lack self-discipline.’ He was talking so loudly, his voice booming, ‘Understand that the punishment you are about to receive is not for your pathetic advances to me, but for your disobedience when I instructed you to punish Maria. Because you have already received a severe spanking and also you are obviously not used to receiving corporal punishment, I shall be lenient. You will take no strokes on your naked bottom. Repeat it in those words. Tell me that you consider this to be fair and that you wish me to chastise you with this hairbrush just as I did Maria.’
There was a long pause, and shock-waves tingled chillingly through my body, most of which felt so naked and exposed. But eventually I told him in a flat, alien tone: ‘I deserve to be punished for disobeying you. Please spank my naked bottom six times with a hairbrush. It is very fair.’ As I said it, I realised that my bared flesh offered an unlimited target whereas Marie’s old-fashioned lingerie had clearly defined the area to be treated. I was filled with shame at the thought that I might have to walk home with the red circles from the brush visible below my short hemline.
The first stroke came loud and firm across the crease between my bottom and thighs. I suppressed a response that time, but squealed in spite of myself as the second blow landed with a resounding CRACK! in the centre of my rounded rear.
Tears jerked out of my eyes when number three arrived high on my thighs. It hurt like mad!
No more, please!’ I begged desperately, not really believing that pity would be forthcoming, To my surprise, though, Hector told me to stand up. Gingerly I obeyed, looking hopefully at his stern features. I was also aware of Maria, still standing on the rug, staring at me intently.
‘I have told you that you are to suffer six blows from my hairbrush; you yourself agreed that this was fair and asked me to carry out this punishment. If you wish to leave now you may do so, but for your own sake I shall have to contact your Headmistress and explain how badly you have behaved and how I felt the need to punish you in a manner appropriate to a naughty schoolgirl. Do you wish that, or would you prefer to take the remainder of your punishment?’
Obviously I didn’t want my school to be told that I tried to seduce my employer and was subsequently spanked by both himself and his wife! ‘I’ll take the rest of the spanking,’ I mumbled.
‘Good. Bend over and touch your toes.’
Once again my skirt was pulled right up and I was fully on view before the odd couple, just as Maria had previously been displayed to me. I had to part my legs a little to keep my balance and was aware with great embarrassment of all that was on show.
‘I am going to strike you three more times, as agreed,’ said Mr Pirelli, ‘Obviously, you won’t want the evidence to show below your indecently short skirt, so I will confine them to the crown of your seating area. Please count the strokes aloud.’
The heavy brush descended with a loud THWACK! on exactly the spot it had landed before. I struggled to remain in position as I croaked ‘One’ from between clenched teeth.
A teardrop fell from my face on to my left foot as the penultimate blow fell slightly above the previous one. ‘Two,’ I called out. It stung like fiery hell, and continued to do so in the seconds that followed. There was a shuffling sound as my chastiser altered his position slightly. A whistling rush preceded the final, explosive SMACK! and I called out ‘Three’ with as much relief as pain and anger.
I was now very anxious to get away from my tormentors, but I sensed that I should stay bent over until told otherwise. I tried to control my helpless hiccupping sobs, but in vain. Tears coursed down my face into my hair and on to my feet: it seemed an age before I felt both Hector and Maria helping me into an upright position, my limbs surprisingly stiff and my knees rubbery. They guided me over to the same rug where Maya had previously stood and been forced to observe her marks of shame. Now I was made to gaze at the endlessly repeated images of my beleaguered behind whilst holding my skirt up to my waist.
‘Tomorrow,’ Mr Pirelli told me, ‘you will report for work as usual and our normal working relationships will be re-established between the three of us. Get dressed and go home.’
I did as he said and, amazingly, things did return to ‘normal’ and the incident was never referred to again. I stayed at the shop until I left school and went up to University, after which I never went in it again, even when visiting my parents. I never mentioned the incident to anyone, preferring to keep it secret out of a feeling of shame.
Of course, all that happened several years ago and I seldom have cause to remember the event. However, just recently I have been considering recommending that this troublesome wretch in front of me seeks part-time employment with the Pirellis. I am now teaching at my old school and with the abolition of the uniform and the general erosion of standards, it seems we must sometimes rely on outside agencies to bring some of our girls into line. I know the shop still employs schoolgirls part-time and discreet enquiries tell me they still have a fairly high turnover of staff, so I think it augurs well.
‘Marilyn,’ I tell the reprobate, ‘I don’t see any point in yet another detention. I suggest you learn some discipline by getting a Saturday job. I happen to know of a small shop…’ and I reach for the telephone to set up an interview between her and those nice shopkeepers with their strict code of behaviour and peculiar ways of enforcing it.

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