Story by Jean-Philippe Aubourg from Janus 162, the final instalment in a series of four.
Siobhan looked at the cards on the mantelpiece. ‘Happy Ninth Birthday!’ It did not seem a decade since the chain of events which had brought her here were kicked off by the bishop’s last visit.
He had caught her and Elaine, his niece, red-handed. Let into their Clapham flat by their young male neighbour, Bishop Franks had discovered it full of records and posters dedicated to the ‘Satanic’ rock and roll he despised so much. When they got home, from a Rolling Stones concert to make matters worse, they found him in their living room, furious.
He had them strip practically naked, then spanked them, with his hand and a wooden spoon, before taking off his belt and strapping them severely. As he left, he told them he would return the next day, to make sure they removed all the records and posters.
The girls had approached their handsome neighbour. He was eager to make amends for letting Bishop Franks into their home, and let them use his flat to store everything the bishop might find offensive, until after his second inspection and his departure to Ireland. Then he helped carry it back across the hall.
While doing this he seemed to take a shine to Siobhan, much to her surprise. The willow-figured brunette was used to Elaine getting her share of male attention, with her long blonde curls, large breasts and curvaceous figure. Siobhan was not sure how to deal with it. She tried to keep the young man at arm’s length, but was bowled over by his charm.
They began going out, first with Elaine, then on their own. She allowed him to cuddle her, and then kiss her, but persistently refused his pleas to make their relationship ‘special’, by going to bed with him.
But he kept the pressure on, and she finally relented when he promised to marry her. This led to a brief tumble in his bed, lights off of course, which she found painful, uncomfortable and embarrassing, although he seemed to enjoy it. In fact, he was very keen to carry on doing it regularly, which they did for two months, as he kept on telling her how much he loved her, and wanted to make plans with her.
Looking back, she realised how stupid and naive she had been, but at the time she had no cause to doubt him. Until, that is, the evening she stumbled tearfully across the hall and banged on his door, to tell him she was three weeks late and he was going to be a father.
At first it seemed as if everything was going to be alright. He spent the night holding her, and telling her how they were going to bring the wedding forward. She went back to her own bed apprehensive, but reassured.
The next morning she crossed the hall again, to find the door to her boyfriend’s flat open. Inside she found only the furniture. The two rooms had been stripped of all his possessions. He had gone in the night, and she was alone.
Over the next few weeks Elaine did what she could for a distraught Siobhan. They eventually tracked him down, and he claimed he panicked. However, his only extra contribution was to offer to pay for an abortion. Siobhan knew for certain that was one thing she could never do, so said goodbye to him for good.
With Elaine’s help she struggled for as long as she could, before having to give up work to have her baby, a beautiful girl who she called Bernadette. Straight away she knew she had to be as self-sufficient as possible. Her family in Ireland had disowned her when they found out she was pregnant. Elaine had even had to lie to her own family, telling them Siobhan was not living with her anymore, for fear she would also be shunned.
Siobhan saw her future through qualifications, to get the best job she possibly could. Bernadette’s father contributed what he could, but never seemed likely to earn much.
Through night school, Siobhan studied hard and finally selected a career — law. She was amazed to discover how much of an aptitude she had for it, and after years of studying, full and part-time, passed her exams to become a fully qualified solicitor. Money was still tight, especially with a nine-year-old daughter, but Siobhan was happy, now being able to think about buying a home of their own. However, the house market of 1985 was becoming buoyant, and scraping together the cash for the deposit looked as if it was going to be a major task.
By then she had given up hope of ever hearing from any old friends or relatives from Ireland again. She had distanced herself from Elaine some years ago, as much for Elaine’s good as hers. So it was with great surprise that, among the pile of birthday cards which had arrived for Bernadette, she found a letter from Elaine.
The letter was not long, but it knocked the breath out of Siobhan. Elaine said she had spent months trying to find her. She said she had important news, which it would be of great benefit for Siobhan to hear, although she could not put it in the letter. They had to meet soon, and it had to be somewhere private. With Bernadette due to spend the following weekend with her father, Siobhan arranged for Elaine to come on Saturday morning.
She arrived, and she was not alone. A middle-aged man, with glasses and slightly greying hair, dressed casually in a sweater and chinos, stood behind her on the doorstep. ‘Hello my darling!’ beamed her old friend. Her blonde curls had lost a little of their shine, but none of their bounce. Nor had Elaine’s breasts, their curves pushing against her fashionable white silk blouse, with its frilly cuffs and new romantic collar. Tight jeans showed her lower figure was also still in good shape.
Without waiting to be asked, Elaine threw her arms around Siobhan. ‘It’s so good to see you again!’ she said. ‘Can we come in? Oh, this is Derek. He’s a solicitor, like you now, so I’m told!’ The man grinned, although he appeared somewhat nervous. He was carrying a briefcase and a long cardboard tube.
‘Yes, yes, of course!’ Siobhan ushered them in. Within fifteen minutes they were all in her living room sipping coffee, as Elaine cooed over pictures of Bernadette.
‘So why was it so urgent you find me?’ Siobhan asked. Derek suddenly looked as if he was about to speak, but was stayed by Elaine’s hand on his knee.
‘It’s my Uncle Patrick, Bishop Franks,’ she said.
Siobhan flinched at the memory of the man on whom she blamed all the misfortunes of her early life. The man who had virtually bought her from her family, to cook and clean for him, allowing her not one moment of pleasure in return, who had taken such sadistic pleasure in punishing her naked bottom so severely at every possible opportunity. The bastard who had even violated their home, stripped the two of them and beaten them raw for daring to choose their own lifestyle. Was he going to try and force his way back into her life? No way — this time she was not the naive country girl. She would see him in Hell first.
‘I’m afraid to say’ Elaine went on, ‘that he’s passed away.’
Dead? He’s dead! Siobhan would have laughed out loud if it had not been his niece telling her this. Instead all she could muster was a faint ‘how?’
‘It was a stroke. Very quick. He didn’t suffer.’ Unlike me, you and quite a few other young women, I daresay, thought Siobhan, but again she kept quiet. ‘It happened five months ago. And it was when we opened his will that we started looking for you. You’re in it, Siobhan.’
‘Me?’ She was stunned. ‘What did the old pervert put me in his will for?’ Elaine flushed at the description of her Uncle, but made no attempt to contradict it.
‘For five thousand pounds.’ It was the first complete sentence Derek had said to her, and it knocked her sideways. ‘Bishop Patrick Franks had accumulated a good deal of wealth for a man of the Church, although as the eldest of his siblings, he himself inherited a sizeable estate as a young man.’ Derek was opening his briefcase and taking out papers, warming to his task, although something still seemed to be bothering him. ‘And as a man of the Church, he naturally had no children to pass his estate on to. He’s made several bequests to former colleagues and staff, and he seems to remember you particularly fondly, and so has left you this not inconsiderable amount. However,’ and at this point Derek became a little hoarse, and coughed to clear his throat, ‘he does make a rather, er, unusual condition.’
Siobhan looked at Derek, then at Elaine, who was staring at the carpet, fiddling with her fingers. ‘What condition?’
Derek fumbled with some papers. ‘I, er, think it would be best to read you Bishop Franks’ own words,’ he stuttered, clearly unable to find any of his own. ‘Ah, here we are.’ He unfolded a copy of the will and began to read aloud.
‘To my former housekeeper, I leave the sum of five thousand pounds.’ Siobhan gulped on hearing the amount again. ‘But on the condition that she shows true repentance for straying so far from the path of righteousness. For the acts of fornication, and bringing into this world a child out of wedlock, are serious crimes against God’s Holy Church, as is the wantonness with which she has abandoned her family and loved ones. And so,’ Derek went on, after pausing to cough again, ‘she shall only receive the money once she has paid a full penance, namely a complete and severe caning around the whole of the rosary, on her bare bottom, administered by a member of my family, and witnessed to his full satisfaction by my executor.’
Derek folded the will and looked up. ‘I’m sorry Miss O’Connor, normally strange bequests can be challenged, but the rest of the document is singularly unremarkable. There can be no doubt he was of sound mind when he made it.’
‘So I get five thousand’ said Siobhan slowly, ‘but only if I let one of his creepy relatives undress and cane me, just like he used to do?’
‘Well, we thought, if you wanted to go through with it, that I could do it.’ Elaine broke her long silence. ‘We thought you might be more comfortable with that.’
‘Comfortable? What could be comfortable about getting my bum whacked fifty-nine times? Yes, Elaine, fifty-nine! That’s how many beads a rosary has. You remember, that’s how many I saw the old bastard give your cousin Rosemary in 1970! She had marks for a week!’
‘Sure, but she deserved it! But you just have to think of the money. Think what you can do with it, for you and your little girl!’
‘Do you seriously expect me to debase myself for money? Especially his money!’
‘Miss O’Connor, no-one says you have to do this.’ It was Derek again, desperately trying to be reasonable. ‘But I feel I have to point out that, should you exercise your right to refuse, the money will go to the Roman Catholic Church.’
The words had a strange effect on Siobhan. It seemed to her she was being offered the chance to put one over the bishop, even though he was not here to appreciate how it would feel. Clearly he had thought he could get to her from beyond the grave. He probably assumed she would be horrified, humiliated, furious, and too proud to offer her bare bottom up for the embarrassing and painful punishment. Then she would have to watch the money go to the Church, the very institution which had let her down by giving him the power to control her life and punish her. It was probably exactly where he was planning to leave the money anyway, the old boys club of self-serving hypocrites in black, purple and red, which he had been part of almost all his adult life. Well, she was damned if they were going to see a penny of it!
‘Let’s get it over with, then.’ Elaine and Derek looked at her, both wide-eyed. Clearly they had not been expecting this outcome either. ‘I assume that’s the dirty old sod’s cane you have in that tube? Well, you’d better get it out and use it on me Elaine, before I change my mind. Then you can write me a cheque Derek, and Patrick Franks can carry on burning in Hell.’
Derek fumbled with the cardboard tube, and took off the plastic cap. From within he took out the slender crook-handled cane that had made Siobhan’s late teens so painful an experience. He shook the tube and a rosary fell out. ‘Also Bishop Franks,’ Derek explained. ‘He was specific about the use of this cane and this rosary, in case we tried to use anything lighter or with fewer beads.’
‘A thorough pervert to the end’ said Siobhan. ‘And he also demanded I be bare-bottomed? Well, he wouldn’t have it any other way!’ Stepping out of her slippers, she unbuckled her belt, then pulled down the zip of her jeans and unbuttoned them. Pushing the fashionably skin-tight trousers down to her ankles, she stepped out of them. ‘Bare-bottom, he said?’ repeated Siobhan, looking straight at Derek, who had broken out in a sweat and turned pale.
‘Er, yes’ he replied, looking up the relevant passage in the will, as much as a way of diverting his eyes, as to make sure the information was correct.
‘Then these will have to come off!’ Putting a finger and thumb on each side of the waistband of her panties, Siobhan pushed them down to her knees in one quick motion. Dragging them the rest of the way down her legs with her left hand, using her right arm for balance, she pulled them off altogether, and dropped them on top of her discarded jeans.
Putting her hands on her hips, she looked straight at a very flustered Derek. His eyes were fixed on her crotch, her thick black pubic hair now totally exposed. ‘I thought it was my bum you were both interested in?’ she said sharply.
‘Oh! Er, yes! Yes indeed!’ She kept a stony expression on her face, but deep down she was enjoying the power her semi-naked body gave her over Derek. ‘I think you’d better, er…’
‘Bend over? I know exactly what to do. I’ve been forced into it often enough, but I never thought you’d be doing it.’ She shot a withering look at Elaine, who was picking up the cane. ‘Traditional position? It’s what the old git would have wanted. Give me those beads.’
Taking the rosary from Derek, she walked across the living room. Siobhan was incredibly aware of two pairs of eyes watching her naked legs and bottom as she moved. Always skinny as a young woman, she had gained a little weight after giving birth, and middle age had added a little more, but it had all gone to her tummy. Her bottom was still tight and small, even boyish, practically the same size and shape it had been when the bishop himself had wielded the cane over it. The same cane Elaine was about to use.
Suddenly she had an idea. Walking to the unit where she kept her hi-fi and record collection, she bent down and opened the cupboard door. She could feel Derek’s eyes burning into her, and was not sure whether she was giving him a far more intimate view of her sex than she had intended. She pulled out one of her favourite albums, a Rolling Stones compilation. Lifting the perspex lid on the hi-fi, she slid the vinyl from the sleeve and dust jacket and laid it carefully on the turntable, then pressed play. She walked back to the centre of the room, just as the first track began to belt out of the two small speakers that she had nailed to the walls at opposite ends of the room. ‘He hated music and the modern world, and he never forgave me for loving life. He is NOT going to stop me now he’s dead!’ she told Derek and Elaine.
Pulling a dining room chair into the centre of the room, Siobhan bent forward, placing her hands on the seat, after giving her sweater an arrogant flick to clear it from her bottom, resting her tummy on the top of the backrest.
She fingered the first bead as she heard Elaine stand up and take position behind her. ‘Siobhan, I’m really, really sorry about this! If there was any other way…’
‘Just get on with it. Sooner it’s done, sooner it’s over. And don’t hold back. I assume the will makes it clear the strokes all have to count?’ She looked at Derek, who was watching proceedings with wide eyes and an open mouth. He pulled himself together long enough to nod a yes. ‘Okay Elaine — cane me!’
Elaine gulped hard enough for Siobhan to hear, and tapped her bottom with the rod. It was pulled back, and Siobhan closed her eyes and held her breath.
The cane cracked home, almost diagonally, from the top of her left buttock to the bottom of her right. It was not as accurate or as hard as any she had ever received from the bishop, but it brought back all the feelings that used to rage through her when he punished her: Anger, frustration at the injustice, humiliation, and above all, pain. She passed the first bead through her fingers, counting out loud ‘one!’
A few seconds later another stroke landed, a little more accurate this time, and just as hard. ‘Owww!’ she cried. ‘Oh! Two.’ Another bead was counted off. How was she going to get through this awful experience?
Elaine landed more strokes, her aim improving with each one. Nor could she have been accused of making things easier for her friend. They were hard, relentless, unforgiving, each one stinging Siobhan to her core. She counted them off with the rosary: ‘Twenty-seven! Twenty-eight! Twenty-nine! Ooh! Thirty!’
By now she was up on her toes with every stroke, wiggling her little bottom between each one, driving herself on to take the next. She pictured the bishop in his coffin, with the lid about to be nailed down, sealing him in and as far away from her as possible.
‘Ahh! Forty-six! Forty-seven! Ooh! Forty-eight! Forty-nine! Ow! Fifty!’
She pictured herself using the five thousand pounds as a deposit on a house, where she and Bernadette could be happy, get on with their lives, and where clergy never visited.
‘Fifty-four! Fifty-five! Fifty-ooh-six! Fifty-seven! Fifty-eight! Aaah! Fifty-NINE!’
The rosary fell from Siobhan’s shaking hands and she sank to her knees, her fingers gripping the backrest of the chair to stop herself collapsing completely.
After a few minutes she felt Elaine’s hands gently taking her shoulders, lifting her to very unsteady feet. She helped Siobhan to the sofa and lay her face down. Siobhan looked up and was vaguely aware of Derek writing a cheque and placing it on the dining room table.
He picked up his briefcase. ‘I’m pleased we were able to resolve the matter to everyone’s satisfaction. I’ll leave the cane and rosary with you, as stated in the will. And I’ll be in touch about the rest of your payment from the estate, now you’ve persuaded Miss O’Connor to accept your uncle’s wishes.’
‘Yes, yes, I’ll be in touch. Now I think it’s best if you leave me with Siobhan.’ It seemed Elaine was in a hurry to get Derek to leave. And what had he said about a payment for her?
Siobhan sat up, as Elaine escorted, in fact almost hustled, the lawyer into the hall and out the front door. As she came back, she picked up Siobhan’s jeans and panties, and held them out to her. ‘Here you are, my darling.’
Siobhan made no move to take them. Instead she looked straight at Elaine. ‘What payment?’ she asked.
‘Payment? Why, er, that’s just my share of Uncle Patrick’s estate.’
‘No it’s not. I heard him loud and clear. It was because you persuaded me to take that caning.’ Elaine sank into an armchair, looking sorrowfully at Siobhan. ‘Isn’t it?’ repeated the brunette.
‘Yes, yes it is,’ the blonde mumbled.
‘How much?’ Again, no reply. ‘How much!’
‘A thousand’ Elaine whispered.
‘A thousand pounds! You get a thousand pounds for bullying me into having the most painful, the most humiliating, the worst caning of my life? You bitch!’
‘Please Siobhan! I did it for us! I’ve got a husband and two small kids! I need that money, and I know you need five grand even more, especially being on your own with a little one.’
‘So why not come clean with me straight away?’
‘Because I knew you wouldn’t believe me. You might even think I was going to enjoy hurting you.’
‘No! I hated every minute of it, every bloody stroke!’
‘Easy to say, when it’s not your arse getting flayed. Okay — prove it.’
‘Prove it? How?’
‘I’ve earned my money, for sure.’ Siobhan reached underneath, to rub the weals on her agonized bottom. ‘Now I think you should earn yours.’
‘Earn mine? Do you mean…?’
‘Yes, you’re getting a fifth of the amount I am. I got fifty-nine strokes. That means you should get twelve.’
‘And you’ll be getting off lightly. Don’t think I don’t want to pay you back all fifty-nine!’
‘You can’t make me! Uncle Patrick’s will never said anything about me being caned!’
‘You’ll do it, though — if you’re my friend. And I know you are my friend.’
A look of defiance crossed Elaine’s face. Siobhan stood and turned round, bending over and almost pushing her naked bottom in her face. ‘Look! Look at those marks! You did that! There are fifty-nine of them, you can count them if you like. Oh no, of course, you don’t have to — you put them there!’
Siobhan turned back to face Elaine, putting her hands back to give her raw flesh a firm rub, as much for effect as for relief. ‘And all I’m asking you to take is twelve of them, just to show you still care about me.’
Elaine got to her feet. Siobhan thought she was about to walk out, but she was not. ‘Bare bottom, just like you?’
Elaine slipped off her sandals and undid the button and zipper of her jeans. She pushed them down her legs and squatted to step out of them. As she stood, Siobhan saw her panties had gone with them.
Elaine stepped to the chair and took her place over it, pausing to pick up the rosary. ‘Twelve hard ones,’ she said, ‘I deserve them, for sure.’
Siobhan picked up the cane. It was the first time she had ever done so without having to hand it to the bishop so it could be applied to her own bottom. Knowing she was going to use it this time gave her new emotions, not just power, but justice. She looked at Elaine’s plump bottom, a bigger rounder target than her own for sure, and maybe a tiny bit bigger than it had been ten years ago, the last time the bishop punished them both.
Siobhan was about to begin, and had even lined up the first stroke, her fingers gripping the cane handle tightly, when she realised something was missing. The music had stopped.
Putting down the cane, she went to the hi-fi, which had finished playing side one of the LP. Flipping it over, she started the turntable and lifted the stereo arm. Placing the needle carefully between the grooves, she returned to the waiting Elaine, and picking up the cane again as she went, she tapped her bottom, waiting for her chosen track to start.
The jarring chords of Keith Richards’ guitar filled the room. ‘Duh-duh-duh-duh-der-duh-duh-der-du-deerr!’ It was a riff she loved. The dirty opening of Bitch had always been a winner for her, and she could think of no better song to cane Elaine to. ‘Listen darling,’ she sneered, ‘they’re playing your song!’
She lashed the cane back, and then whipped it down hard. Elaine squealed and threw her head back. It had been a hard one, and the tip had caught the top of her right thigh. Nevertheless, she counted off ‘One!’ with the aid of the rosary.
Siobhan pulled the cane back, then swished it home a second time, on the downbeat of the music. ‘Ooh! Two!’ moaned Elaine. That one had been harder and more accurate. Clearly there was an art to this caning that Siobhan just had not appreciated when she was on the receiving end.
‘Ow! Three!’ Elaine winced, as Siobhan swung the wood home again. Three livid lines were painted across the blonde’s bottom, growing deeper and redder as Siobhan looked at them. But any sympathy she felt for her friend was drowned out by the music. ‘Aah! Four!’ There was no let up in the severity or the pace of the strokes.
‘Oh! Five! Eaah! Six! Ooh! Seven! Fuck! Eight!’
‘I imagine Uncle Patrick’s turning in his grave, to hear his niece use such disgusting language!’ Siobhan taunted her, before landing another stroke.
‘Ow! Nine!’ Elaine did not curse this time. Now Siobhan was sure her punishment was having an effect. Elaine had been conditioned against swearing, probably by this very cane. ‘Ooh! Ten!’ Two more strokes to go, and Siobhan was going to make them count. ‘Aah! Eleven!’ She waited a little longer to dish the last one out, almost taunting her victim. Finally, as the saxophone joined in the grinding blues riff, bringing the song to a crescendo, she did the same with the caning, slashing the rod squarely across the centre of Elaine’s cheeks. ‘Aaah! Twelve!’
She dropped the rosary onto the floor, and arched upwards, clasping both hands to her injured bottom. ‘My God! You cane as hard as the old wanker himself!’
Throwing the cane onto the sofa, Siobhan embraced her. Elaine hugged her back. They stayed that way for several minutes, both naked from the waist down, both with extremely sore bottoms, as the next track on the album played itself out.
Finally they separated, but continued to hold hands, looking into each other’s eyes. ‘I’m sorry’ whispered Siobhan.
‘I deserved it’ Elaine replied. ‘And I’m sorry too.’
‘Friends again?’‘I sure hope so!’ They embraced again, knowing that the ghost of Bishop Franks had been exorcised from both their lives.