It was Thursday.
The school never had parents evenings on a Friday when we girls would have the weekend to recover from our punishments. The teachers liked to see us on Friday morning, to see the effect their words had on us as we sat fidgeting uncomfortably on the hard wooden chairs.
“Well Harriet, I don’t suppose you’re looking forward to this evening.”
She said it with a smile, but I could not be sure if this was by way of sympathy or whether she was enjoying my discomfort.
“No Miss,” I replied quietly, my head bowed to avoid eye contact. I could feel my mother’s eyes glaring at me. We both knew that in the next two hours we would hear exactly what we expected to hear. This wouldn’t stop my mum from looking surprised and shocked at every revelation. She had to make it seem like my poor behaviour was news to her so that the teachers wouldn’t put it down to ineffectual parenting. They wouldn’t be fooled, of course. It had only been four months since I had my end of term report and, although it had earned me a long, hard and in my mum’s opinion, richly deserved slippering, my behaviour hadn’t improved.
My form teacher gave my parents her own opinion of me and advised them of the kind of things they were likely to hear, then handed them a list of all my teachers and in which classrooms they could be found. Mum thanked her and we headed off, the look on her face already telling me that the consequences of the evening would be painful in the extreme.
The corridor was full of first year girls with their parents and they could be split into two categories. They either looked confident that their parents would hear only good things, for which they would be rewarded with lavish praise, or they looked like me. Doomed! Those of us in the latter category exchanged sympathetic glances while our parents likewise gave each other nods which I understood to be communicating a shared burden. The responsibility of dealing with badly behaved daughters fell on their shoulders.
Classroom after classroom, the same scene was enacted, the same words said.
“Bright, funny, popular.”
And then the bad stuff. “Disruptive, lazy, exasperating, always messing around, could do so much better.”
Most damning of all was the refrain that I could always tell when the teachers were running out of patience and would never quite push them far enough to warrant punishment.
“One of these days, she is going to overstep the mark and find herself bending over my desk for the slipper,” more than one of them remarked.
“When she does, you will have my full support,” my mum replied.
And so it went on, my parents discovering that my name often cropped up in the staff room, usually prefaced with, “That bloody girl!”
There was a general consensus that I would greatly benefit from a jolly good spanking.
My mum assured them that she agreed and that their advice would be heeded.
The fact that since my report I had several ‘jolly good spankings’ without noticeably altering my character was irrelevant to them, just as long as justice was seen to be done. It didn’t matter that the spankings didn’t reform me just as long as I understood that if I misbehaved my bum would suffer. I think they hoped that one day the message would get through to me but if it didn’t. Well, that was my problem.
There was tea being served in the hall throughout the evening, and after a while my mum decided we should have a break from hearing bad things about me and go and hear bad things about my classmates instead. A girl called Sarah was in the hall with her parents and as soon as she had got her tea, mum sought them out. While our mums were discussing what should be done with us, Sarah and I slipped away together to confer and to confirm that the evening was going just as badly as expected.
It was clear that our mums wanted to talk to all of the teachers, gathering evidence for the prosecution, while our dads just wanted to go home and proceed straight to sentencing and execution. As far as they were concerned, our punishments were a foregone conclusion, and they would much rather get it over with and go to the pub than spend another hour hearing the same story over and over.
I was in agreement with our dads. I just wanted the whole thing over with.
As always, though, mum had her way and none of my teachers were deprived of the opportunity to add their testimony to the stack of evidence against me. I had hoped that maybe one of them would offer some mitigating circumstances, that my misbehaviour was because of a low boredom threshold on account of me being a genius or something, but I was to be sorely disappointed. Apparently I was just a naughty girl in need of discipline.
As we walked home, I was sure that everyone in the houses we passed was watching from behind their curtains, all knowing where I was headed and the fate that would await me there. They weren’t, of course. None of them would have a clue until the spanking began, which a few neighbours might overhear. It was little comfort that there would be several other girls getting the same in our neighbourhood as was generally the case on parents’ evening.
Before we turned into our street, for instance, we could hear raised voices from the house on the corner followed by a loud whack and a howl of pain. It came from the downstairs front room and I involuntarily looked in that direction when I heard it. The curtains were open and I could see a girl called Tracey’s dad’s arm raised high in the air, a leather belt in his hand. I hurriedly looked away as he brought it down again, then winced at the awful sound. My mum was looking at me with that familiar, satisfied look on her face that said, ‘You see what happens to naughty girls.’
I could still hear Tracey getting belted when we got to our house, although at that distance I shouldn’t have been able to, so it’s possible that I was imagining it, the sound repeating in my head as a subconscious reminder of what I was about to suffer myself.
Because it was Thursday, Rebecca was out at Guides. This was a relief. After all the teasing she had suffered from me in the year in which she had been the sole recipient of the slipper in our house, she had taken great delight in reciprocating, now that it was just as likely to be me getting it. I was glad that she wouldn’t be listening from the next room.
There was a brief lecture in which my mum told me how disappointed she was in me and how I needed to buck my ideas up, etc, none of which I was really listening too as I’d heard it all before.
“Honestly, Harriet, I don’t know what we’re going to do with you,” she concluded.
This was nonsense of course. She knew exactly what they were going to do with me, and so did I. She looked at my dad and nodded to indicate that the talking was over and he nodded back to show that he understood. He hadn’t said a word since we left the school and he didn’t now, merely beckoning to me to precede him up the stairs. As we passed through the hall, he paused to open the cupboard below the stairs and take out the slipper. I walked up the stairs, my legs almost giving way underneath me, followed by dad, who was in turn followed by mum, choosing as she sometimes did to watch the proceedings from my bedroom doorway.
The three of us entered my bedroom and dad sat on my bed, put the slipper down beside him, and pulled me down over his lap. For the first time since leaving the school, he spoke.
“How many?” he asked.
“At least two dozen,” my mother replied.
“Bare bottom?” he asked.
“Bare bottom,” she confirmed.
Two dozen was the same as I had received on my last trip across his knee and ‘bare bottom?’ was an unnecessary question as neither Rebecca nor I had ever had it any other way. It had hurt like hell and my bum had still been tender for the whole of the next day.
I had wanted a pillow to be able to sit down comfortably. There would be no pillows available for me to sit on at school tomorrow, though. Also, I had not liked the words ‘At least’ that my mum had used when pronouncing sentence.
I felt my skirt being pulled up over my back and my pants slid down to my thighs. A cool breeze on my bare flesh indicated that the small window in my room was still open to let air circulate and prevent condensation. It would also allow my spanking to be heard outside the house, much to my embarrassment. Dad picked up the slipper and just as he was about to begin I heard Barney barking excitedly, followed by the back door opening.
“Mum, dad, I’m home,” called Rebecca.
“Stay down there,” my mother ordered her and immediately my dad brought the slipper down hard on my bare bum.
I could not contain a howl of pain and I heard my sister at the foot of the stairs laughing delightedly.
Twenty-four hard whacks later, my poor bum felt like it was on fire and I lay across dad’s lap, limp and sobbing.
Dad looked at mum for a sign that he was finished. He wasn’t.
“I think another six, just to be sure she’s learned her lesson.”
Another six were duly given and I was finally allowed up, and I stood feeling sorry for myself, clutching my bum in both hands as they made their way downstairs.
As soon as she was allowed, Rebecca came to my room to tease me about my punishment.
She had enjoyed it immensely.
She shut up, though, when I reminded her that next Tuesday would be second year parents evening.
She wouldn’t be laughing after that. I even showed her my bright red bottom to remind her what she should expect.
It was Tuesday.
My parents and sister had gone to the school and were due back any minute.
As always, when he heard the door opening, Barney barked excitedly and on this occasion I was just as delighted to hear them coming in. I sat there in the living room with a big grin on my face as mum delivered the exact same lecture as she had on the previous Thursday.
The three of them headed up the stairs, dad pausing at the hall cupboard on the way. I tiptoed up to just below the landing where I could hear without being seen.
“How many?” I heard dad ask.
“At least two dozen,” my mother replied.