Mrs Hastings, our Headmistress, was on convalescent leave and Mrs Marbrook, her Deputy, normally in charge of disciplinary matters as well as having her own teaching responsibilities, had been asked to step up to Acting Headmistress. She had been urged to use Mrs Hastings’ study for the period of deputising as it was more in the central hub of the school, and she could make use of secretarial services far more easily than from the more remote wing of the building where she had her own office. She retained her responsibility for school discipline, but now had to see visitors, representatives and officials in the way that Mrs Hastings would normally do.

For members of her sixth and lower sixth form classes like me, it meant access to her was more difficult as often you would just have to sit and wait in the secretary’s office for an opportunity. I needed her advice on a project and so entered the office shortly after lunch that afternoon. As ever, there was a cheery smile from the secretary, a half-nod from a gentleman sitting on the settee, and a ‘hello Jenny’ from Debbie Harrington, a sixth-former best known as captain of our highly successful school hockey team, of which I was especially proud to be a member. Debbie was an inspiring leader and tactician, and under her captaincy we had achieved more than any previous school team. Her achievements both in the team and academically were legendary and she was hotly tipped to become Head Girl for the remainder of the school year.

Our relationship got off to a difficult start. In the fourth form, I got friendly with a girl in the next year up, Debbie’s year, and we used to spend lunchtimes together. Often Debbie would join us along with another girl I didn’t know then, and Debbie would offer the cigarettes around. Several times I had refused, partly concerned about being caught and punished, and partly because I wasn’t really sure I wanted to smoke. I must admit I was beginning to make myself look a bit of a prude, bit of an outsider, bit of a goody-goody, so one day I accepted one, took three puffs and started to cough uncontrollably. I was making so much noise, my fellow smokers looked concerned one minute and a bit afraid the next in case I attracted attention. Debbie tried to thump my back as if I was choking, but it wasn’t long before all four of us were bent in turn over Mrs Hastings’ table with our knickers pulled right up, receiving six of the very best with her trusty and well-worn plimsoll.

Debbie, of course, blamed me for the whole incident and the very sore bottom she had acquired because of me. She was very reluctant to let me into the team, but when I somehow managed to score four goals in my first game, the success of the team overcame personal grudge and we were friends thereafter.

With the gentleman in the room, it was hard to hold a conversation, so I couldn’t find out why she was there, but then the intercom went, asking the secretary to send Deborah Harrington in. Mrs Marbrook was usually far less formal; Jenny, Debbie, unless you were in trouble. As there was a shortage of comfortable chairs in the room, I availed myself of Debbie’s vacant seat next to the gentleman. I was sure I recognised him from three years before and realised pretty soon that he was in fact the man who was sat in the same office when I came out tear-stained, battered and bruised from the first time Mrs Hastings had to punish me for persistent lateness. He seemed to have a thousand eyes on that occasion although I never actually looked at him on my way over to the punishment book on the secretary’s desk. I had clocked, though, the way he looked at Sheila Hamilton, a tall elegant dark-haired girl from a year above me as she came out before me, holding the back of her skirt, having some difficulty co-ordinating her leg movements.

I also remembered seeing him again, when I came out with Debbie, Alice and the other girl after our slippering for smoking. He was always there. Did he enjoy listening? How did he know to be there, and when and why? So many questions.

I looked over to Miss Thomas, the secretary, who looked up briefly from her work to inform me I should be in next. I asked if I wasn’t queue jumping, but the gentleman, Mr Smith apparently, was a bit early for his 2.30 appointment with Mrs Marbrook. How convenient. I turned to Mr Smith and told him I would not be more than ten minutes, and for some reason he seemed surprised I might be that long.

A polite silence returned, Miss Thomas had stopped her typing now. Several minutes after Debbie had entered, a familiar sound came out of the study, it was unmistakeable. After about fifteen seconds it was repeated. Mr Smith picked up his briefcase and made to put the file he was holding back inside, before picking out a different one. He then placed the case on his lap rather than return it to the floor.

Another fifteen seconds had passed before we all heard the sound again from inside Mrs Marbrook’s adopted study. It was clear to all of us what was going on behind the closed door, and I must admit I was really feeling for Debbie. I can remember how stoic she was when Mrs Hastings was spanking us for smoking. She had the ability to absorb the pain by rolling her hips and slowly moving her thighs alternately backwards and forwards. For anybody watching, it was quite enthralling. I guessed she would be doing the same again, even though in my opinion a Mrs Marbrook slippering was harder to take simply because of the enormous plimsoll she used. By three strokes in, the last time she spanked me, I really wasn’t sure I could make it to the end, and although I bruise quite easily, the bruises on my bottom afterwards were a sight to behold. She made sure you remembered the punishment for several days afterwards and, more to the point, why you had been punished.

The fourth arrived with a faint moan. It was really getting to her, and I, for one was really feeling it now, the memory was still vivid. The gentleman was pretending to stare intently at the piece of paper he had extracted from the second file, I could swear it was upside down. Miss Thomas was reading through her recently finished typing, but seemingly taking an eternity to finish the first page. It was magnetic, pretend what you like, you just could not help but hear and listen to what was going on. There was a lovely 18 year old girl in there have all hell beaten out of her backside, and you just could not get that out of your mind.

The fifth elicited a slightly more vocal response but likely subdued compared with most other girls in her position. When I was last on the receiving end, I did my best to hold it but it was just impossible, with the heat building up in your posterior making it feel that your bottom was on fire. As for now, looking around the room, you really didn’t want to catch anyone’s eye. What would you do? Nod approval, gesticulate some sort of empathy?

The sixth stroke struck with an almighty crack, it must have been the hardest yet. The cry was louder this time, nothing excessive, just an understated expression of how much her poor bottom must have been hurting. Another fifteen seconds passed but no further whack or response. For once, Mrs Marbrook considered the job to have been done at six rather than eight. It was at this point that Mrs Hyde turned back into Mrs Jeckyl. It was all over, the girl had been punished, all behind her now, literally. No further mention, threats about next time or anything like that with Mrs Marbrook. You would find her hand on your back as you lay there across the desk still trying to rationalise what had happened, and absorb the continuing build-up of heat.

“It’s all over now,” she would say. “You did really well, my dear. Take your time and get up when you are ready.”

She was all kindness, loving almost, you’d taken your punishment and all was forgiven; tissues at the ready.

Not surprisingly, Debbie took a few minutes to come out. Movement was a bit laborious with your bottom still on fire, and your lower body aching with every move. Skirt back on, maybe tights, lifting your legs could send stabbing pain shooting down, and trying to balance to get your shoes back on. It was all a very painful process after a slippering like that. Finally, Debbie emerged into the outer office, walking very slowly across the room to the secretary’s desk where the punishment book lay open for the recipient’s signature. Her eyes were watering and I could see a random tear rolling down her cheek before she realised and brushed it away with a tissue. Poor girl, my reluctant friend. You never really looked at anybody, not wanting to catch the eye. Mr Smith followed her across the room, his eyes seemingly homing in to the back of her skirt, no doubt thinking about what was underneath, cheeks now sporting plimsoll imprints, and bright red no doubt with bruises beginning to form, and burning like you wouldn’t believe.

Debbie left the room and Mrs Marbrook called me in. The extra-large plimsoll was still on the table, because as I walked in the phone rang before she’d had a chance to put it away, but it seemed it was as if waiting for its next victim. My eyes were drawn to it, as I heard Mrs Marbrook apologising on the phone, saying that the matter had just been dealt with.

“Do you think I left that out for you, Jenny?” said Mrs Marbrook, putting the phone down. Her words brought me out of a trance.

“I hope not, Miss,” I muttered in reply, thinking about the three occasions when I had been leaning over the table that Debbie had just vacated, sampling the healing powers of the Headmistress’s slipper, and then twice in Mrs Marbrook’s study when that colossal beast chose to assault my back end with vigour.

“It was a wonderful victory you all had on Saturday, and I can understand your need to celebrate such a historic result, but bringing and drinking alcohol on school premises is not a good idea. Even worse that we are now embarrassed, despite our great relations with St Thomas’s, that you chose to do it in their school.” That was the Mrs Marbrook lecture, calm as anything but very much to the point.

My heart was beginning to sink. Was she going to punish the whole team, and it just happened that I was already there? Mrs Marbrook went to pick up the slipper, and I wondered if my next move was the usual routine of removing skirt and shoes before bending over the table.

“Don’t worry, dear, not this time,” she said in a comforting voice. “Debbie has taken full responsibility as you would expect from her, and she has accepted that no exceptions can be made, even for successful team captains.”

I was relieved when Mrs Marbrook put the slipper back in the cupboard, and invited me to sit down, more comfortably I must say than I was expecting a few seconds before. I was guilty at least of drinking the champagne Debbie had brought in, anticipating a great victory. We all got naked and drank it in the shower, which was a really good way to celebrate, but maybe leaving the empty bottle with the match score stuffed in the neck in the changing rooms wasn’t the best idea. Mrs Marbrook, though I’m sure sympathetic to the cause, as acting Headmistress could not be seen bending the rules.

After our discussion about my project, as I was returning to the outer office, I nodded to Mr Smith to indicate he was likely next, and I noticed perhaps the faint trace of disappointment on his face. Maybe he was hoping I was going to be slippered too and would create more sound effects for him to muse upon.

I waited by Miss Thomas’s desk for her to return and noticed the punishment book was still open. Couldn’t help but be curious, looking at the most recent entry,

XX/11/66: Deborah Harrington, 6, Plimsoll, Buttocks, Procuring, providing, and drinking alcohol on school premises.

I wondered again, briefly, why ‘buttocks’, it would have been far more gentile to put ‘seat’ or ‘posterior’, or even just ‘bottom’, but flicking through the pages there were buttocks as far as the eye could see, including five of mine, or ten to be more precise!

One thing for sure, Debbie was not going to get the rap again when we celebrated our win in the final in a week’s time, we hope. As Vice-Captain, my turn to bring in the champagne and suffer the consequences if there were any, and if there were, I would just have to sit on my halo.