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Debbie's exasperated parents, thinking she needs more discipline, transfer her from a convent school to Bexhill. When Catharine's sister recounts the discipline regime at the school, Catharine quails at the prospect of having to behave well enough to avoid being subjected to 'carpet study' - bending over for a spanking. Suffering a tanning just before a dinner party doesn't stop two former pupils from reminiscing about being on the receiving end of the cane at Bexhill.
Meanwhile, Miss Holloway, the attractive school secretary, finds herself in the Headmaster's study. How will she cope when she has to restrain a young lady who is refusing to take her caning? Anna, about to become a dormitory captain and therefore entitled to use a slipper on her charges, finds that she also rather enjoys a tingling rear. And as tingling rears go, few girls suffer the experience as often as those two reprobates, Sally and Linda. They can't even keep out of trouble during the holidays. Finally, two young French ladies will be joining Bexhill on exchange from their school in Corsica: swapping the martinet for the cane.
Publisher's Note: Bexhill School is a classic C.P. series, and has a traditional 1950s school setting. However, all characters are over the age of 18.
Debbie sauntered down the oak staircase and into the elegant dining room. It was ten o’clock. The remains of breakfast still cluttered the polished mahogany table, although only one member of the family still sat there. Debbie’s mother, Pat, �occupied a ‘carver’ � a chair with arms � at one end. She was a handsome woman whose looks belied the imminent arrival of the ‘Big Four O’. She greeted her daughter perfunctorily.
“Hello dear. I wish you wouldn’t go around the house dressed like that.” Debbie was wearing only a short, ‘Baby Doll’-style nightie. “Couldn’t you put a dressing gown over the top?”
“Dressing gown? Oh Mum, that’s so uncool!”
“And I don’t like having your bare bottom sitting on the seats of the chairs.”
“I’m not having a period, if that’s what’s worrying you.”
“Well, what if someone comes in and you’re only wearing that nightdress?”
“Then they can feast their eyes, can’t they?” She wiggled her bottom provocatively.
“Debbie, I’m expecting a colleague. Please just go and make yourself decent!”
Debbie ignored her, went over the hotplate and opened one of the silver-topped dishes. It contained a few scraps of congealed scrambled egg. The other dish had evidently once held bacon.
“There’s nothing left!” grumbled Debbie.
“Well it is ten o’clock. Your father and brother finished breakfast almost two hours ago”.
“They might have left something for me!”
“And you might have got yourself out of bed a bit earlier and helped prepare breakfast!”
“Oh come on, Mum! You know Julian was taking me to Annabelle’s last night. I didn’t get back until well after dawn.”
“I thought we told you to be home by two?”
“Mum, for Christ’s sake! I’m not a kid anymore!”
“You’ll still do what you’re told while you’re living in our house.” Her tone hardened.
“You’re so old-fashioned! I’m not just a little schoolgirl any longer. I’m virtually an adult now.”
Her mother looked at her pouting daughter and then gently tapped an envelope that lay open on the table in front of her.
“What’s that?” asked Debbie, a note of uncertainty replacing the petulance.
“Last term’s exam results � the mock GCEs.”
Oh shit. Debbie paled and put down the piece of toast she had been raising to her mouth.
“Are they...OK?” The question was nervous.
“Not exactly.” Her mother held her with an icy gaze. “Perhaps you’d like me to read them to you?”
“If you want.”
Pat pulled a sheet of paper from the envelope. She carefully unfolded it and smoothed it out on the table. Debbie’s mouth had gone dry.
“I think I’m right in saying that grades one to six are passes, aren’t they? Anything more than six is a failure in that subject?”
“Yes, Mum, I think so.” She reached for her coffee cup, but she found her hand was shaking so badly she put it back on the saucer with a rattle.
“Very well. Physics, seven. Chemistry, seven. Biology, seven. History, eight. Geography, seven. English, six. Maths, five. Two passes � neither distinguished � and five failures.”
Debbie looked glumly down at her plate.
“Do you realise what this means? If you don’t pull your socks up, no university, no third level education of any sort at all. You’d be lucky to get a job as a waitress or a salesgirl.”
“But I want to go to uni. All my friends are doing so.”
“You should have thought about that a few years ago, when we sent you St Mary’s. This is where four years of fooling about and not studying gets you.”
Suddenly, a flash of the old defiance. “Anyway, it’s all your fault for sending me to a stupid school like St Mary’s. The nuns are useless, they can’t teach anything!”
Pat coloured just slightly but maintained her calm. “I don’t think you’re right. I called Sister Joanna at the school and told her we were very disappointed with your results. I asked her how the other girls had done. You were the only one to fail so many subjects. No-one else dropped more than one paper, and the average for your class was a grade 2. The Headmistress pointed out that your end-of-term reports regularly mention a lack of effort.”
“Sister Joanna’s a stupid bitch. All she does is blather on about religious gobbledygook. She’s just so square. She needs to get real. Anyway, you can pay for me to go to university! Offer them enough and I’m sure they’ll be glad to grab your money and take me. Problem solved � all you have to do is cough up!”
“We’re not throwing good money after bad, and anyway that’s not how universities work. You’ve been wasting your time at school and now you’re well on the way to blowing your future. We’re really disappointed in you!”
“’Did you say ‘we’? Does Dad know about this?”
“Yes, of course he does, and I imagine he’ll have a few things to say to you on the subject when he gets home.”
“Why do you always have to drag Dad into these things? Can’t you ever keep anything to yourself, for God’s sake?”
Enough is enough, even for an even-tempered person like Pat.
“That’s enough, Debbie. I’m sick and tired of your attitude. You’re behaving like a spoiled brat and I’m going to treat you like one. Go upstairs to your room!”
Debbie gulped. She knew she’d gone too far, that her temper and immaturity had got the better of her, and that she was going to have to pay for it. She’d been here before.
“Please, Mum. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
“Get upstairs! Prepare yourself. I’ll be up in a minute.”
“Please, Mum, can we just talk about this?”
“We can talk afterwards. Now go to your room immediately!”
Debbie knew there was no point in further argument. Indeed, when she’d tried this line before it had resulted in an even worse outcome. She stood up and slowly climbed the stairs. In her room, she smoothed the sheets and blanket on her bed. Then she took her two pillows and placed them in the centre of it, one on top of the other. She kicked off her slippers and lay down with the pillows under her hips. She reached back and eased the thin material of her nightie up until she could feel the cool breeze from the window on her bare bottom. She reached forward and gripped the end of the mattress.
Back then, political correctness hadn’t been invented, but heavy, wooden-backed clothes brushes had. Pat fetched one from the closet and climbed the stairs. To Debbie, her steps sounded like the footfalls of doom. Pat came in and stood beside the bed. Debbie glanced up at her mother and the brush in her right hand.
“I’m sorry...” she pleaded.
“So am I. So is your father. Your attitude leaves a very great deal to be desired, young lady. Now, keep still until I tell you to get up.”
With that, she laid the brush across the centre of Debbie’s pert, pink cheeks, raised it high, and brought it down with a loud whack. Debbie yelped. A rosy glow started to spread across her backside. Pat raised the brush again.
The advantage of being a doctor � a surgeon, actually, as Pat was � is that you can judge better than a lay person just how much pain you are causing and how much damage you are inflicting, unbiased by the yells and cries of the person whose backside you are tanning. Thus, Debbie’s mother gave the wriggling, squirming girl many more swats than a lesser expert might have done. When she finally finished, Debbie was sobbing and her entire bottom, from the top of the cheeks to the join with her thighs, was puce.
“Right. I’ve finished. Now stay in your room until lunchtime. And when your father comes home, I think he may have something to say to you.”
It wasn’t what he might say that worried Debbie. What concerned her was what he was likely to do with that awful, heavy leather strap.
Debbie stayed in her room, intermittently massaging her aching cheeks, until she heard her mother go out after lunch. Then she slipped downstairs and called Julian. They agreed to meet in the Caf� des Artistes, a popular hangout in Fulham road.� Julian, who was training to be something in the City, was glad to have an excuse to get away and see Debbie, whom he hadn’t yet managed to bed, although he thought that event was imminent. He listened to Debbie’s account of her wretched morning.
“Your poor bottie must be awfully sore,” Julian said with keen insight.
“And there’s worse to come. I’m sure dad will strap me when he gets home. That hurts like anything!”
“Oh well, chin up old thing! Soon be over, I suppose. I say, I’m going to Quags tonight with my parents. First night of the grouse season. Should be rather jolly!”
Debbie wasn’t sure that she was getting quite the sympathetic hearing she’d been hoping for. Julian had bags of money and there was a title floating about in his family somewhere, but she did wish that he could be a bit more, well, concerned about her.
“You going to Tessa’s coming-out do on Saturday?” asked Julian. These events were always loaded with vacuous debutantes fishing for the rich and titled. Julian usually fancied his chances when he offered one of them a lift home. It didn’t matter much to him whether Debbie would be there or not, but he might as well know for planning purposes. If he brought Debbie back to his flat, he reckoned a bottle of medium white would be enough to get her into the sack, whereas the debs usually required champagne.
“Ooo yes! Will you take me? I’ve got a lovely dress: you’ll adore it!”
“OK, pick you up at seven?”
“See you then”, she got up to leave.
“See you. Bonne chance with your little bummie tonight!” Julian caught the waitress’ eye and ordered another Pimms.
Debbie waited listlessly for her father’s return. He was a partner in a firm of solicitors and sometimes worked late. Debbie hoped that this would be the case tonight: he might be too tired to get involved in discussing her dismal results. She decided, a trifle unwisely, that she needed something to fortify herself. Her mother was still out, so she crept down to the pantry and helped herself to a strong � in fact, very strong � vodka and tonic. She had almost finished it when she heard the sound of her father’s car on the gravel of the drive. She gulped down the rest and hurriedly rinsed and dried the glass. Then she shot up to her room and closed the door. Maybe her father would think she was asleep.
“Debbie!” her father’s voice boomed from the hallway, “Debbie, are you there?”
She opened her door. “Hello, Dad.”
“Debbie, come down here please. I want to talk to you.”
Oh Lord. This was it.
Debbie tripped on the last stair, but regained her balance before she fell. She was feeling quite self-assured after the stiff drink.
“Yes, Dad, what can I do for you?”
“Come into the drawing room, please. Close the door. Sit there.” He indicated the sofa while he sat in his usual armchair.
“Now, I’m sure you know what this is about, don’t you?”
Debbie returned his gaze in a slightly unfocussed way.
“It’s about those wretched mock GCE results,” he continued. “They’re pathetic. I was ashamed today when people asked me how you’d done.”
“What’s it got to do with anyone else? Those old goats in your office should mind their own business!”
This wasn’t a smart start to the proceedings, but, as we have seen, Debbie was a bit of a slow learner.
“Do you mind not being rude about by work colleagues! They’re all highly qualified lawyers, which is something it seems that you’re unlikely ever to be!”
“They’re just a bunch of prats making money every time someone’s wife catches their husband shagging the nanny! They should get a life!”
“Debbie, how dare you!”
Debbie was on a run. “All you people are the same. Look at Mum. Spends her life slicing up people’s smelly feet. How much of a loser is that?”
“Debbie, shut up! Your mother is one of the most respected orthopaedic surgeons in London!”
“She still deals in smelly feet. Anyway, so what about my results. I don’t want to go to university anyway!” This was a new line, invented on the spot. “I want to travel. I’ll go to Africa or somewhere with Julian. We’ll become big game hunters or keep lions or something like those Atkinsons or Adamsons or whatever they’re called on TV!”
Debbie’s immaturity was showing rather too clearly.
“What you’ll do,” said her father, controlling his composure with some difficulty, “is what I’m about to tell you.”
“Oh yes, and what’s that?” snapped Debbie.
“Keep quiet and listen. I’ve spent most of the day considering what to do about you. I’ve spoken to St Mary’s and they’ve been kind enough to give me some excellent advice...”
“I suppose I have to say twenty ‘Hail Marys’ and flagellate myself!”
“I’ll deal with the flagellation side,” said her father grimly, neatly regaining the initiative as Debbie recalled the lurking presence of the strap. “I was in two minds: let you go to hell your own, ignorant way and muddle through life without a qualification to your name; or to persevere and put you back on the road to a proper future. I decided on the latter.”
“How awfully kind of you!” Debbie said, sarcastically. Her father ignored her. She was going to pay for this, but not just yet.
“The reason that your mother and I decided that we’d keep trying is that we’re a family of achievers...”
Debbie was just about to give some more lip, but her father held up his hand.
“I don’t want to hear another word from you until I’ve finished. Is that clear?”
“Democracy rules, OK!” It came out a little slurred.
“Whatever, in your ignorance, you may think of the firm of Arbuthnot and Bellweather, we’re well on our way to being one of the most respected family lawyers in the city. Your brother will shortly join us and shows great promise. Your mother has her own clinic in Harley Street. Only you present a problem, and I believe that the problem is fixable with a bit of discipline.”
Debbie misunderstood this to mean that she was going to get her strapping there and then.
“OK, let’s get it over with then,” she said impudently. “How do you want me? Over your knees? Touching my toes? Hands on a chair? Bending over the back of the sofa here perhaps?”
“I told you not to speak until I am finished. The discipline I referred to is the Bexhill School for Girls.”
“What the hell is that?”
“Exactly what it says: it’s a school in Bexhill which has a firm approach to discipline. I believe they’ll keep girls like you on a short rein, hammer knowledge into your head, and � hey presto! � in a few years time you’ll emerge as a beautiful, educated swan!”
“Sounds like crap!”
“Possibly, but worth a try. I enrolled you today. You start in September.”
“No I won’t!”
“Debbie, you exhausted your mother’s patience this morning. You’ve exhausted mine now. Thanks for your suggestions: I think over the sofa will do nicely. Get into position while I fetch the strap.”
Debbie opened her mouth.
“Not a word. And I can smell the alcohol on your breath from here, so that will be a few extra. Now prepare yourself!”
Suddenly, the fight went out of Debbie. She was no longer a feisty teenager telling the world what to do with itself. She was a frightened little girl who knew that she was going to get the thrashing of her life. She got up, a little unsteadily, and walked to the back of the sofa. She bent over and grasped the satin cushions tightly.
“Good,” said her father. “Now wait there. I won’t be a moment.”
Debbie could hear a brief exchange of conversation with her mother. She must have come in through the back door, into the kitchen. Oh God, was her brother there, too? She hated it when she knew he was listening in to her punishments. She heard the kitchen door close, and then the closet door open. The closet: repository of the clothes brush and the strap. It was like a torture chamber!
Her father came back in and closed the drawing room door. He held the heavy, brown strap in his hand. It was something of a family heirloom. Had Debbie been remotely interested in history, she might have been intrigued to know that the leather belt that was about to cause her backside so much grief had once belonged to a Boer commando who had been besieging Mafeking. Her grandfather, taking part in the historic relief of the town, had seized the belt from a protesting captive when his own Army-issue webbing had been severed by a ricocheting bullet. But Debbie knew nothing of the Boer War. If she’d ever even heard of it, she would probably have called it the Bore War, or � even more hilariously � the Bored Whore.
Returning from South Africa still in possession of the thick rawhide belt, the Colonel had later used it on the backsides of Debbie’s father and his siblings, and now in his turn her father used it on her and her brother. Actually, although her father had thrashed Michael once or twice a year when the boy was younger, he had only used it on Debbie twice, but those occasions were burned into her memory.
He stood behind her. The white miniskirt had ridden up so high that he barely had to adjust it. Out of respect for her decency, he allowed her to keep her knickers on.
“You’ll stay in place. If you get up, I’ll have to ask your mother to come in here and hold you down. I’m sure you don’t want that. You can howl as much as you like: no-one’s going to take any notice. And just to make it clear, this thrashing isn’t only about your disastrous exam results: it’s also about your abysmal attitude. Are you ready?”
Debbie was afraid she’d sob if she spoke, so she just nodded. Her father laid the strap across the crown of her bottom, raised it high, and brought it down with as much force as his strong tennis arm could muster. The stroke landed with an almighty thwack. Debbie reared and yelled, but quickly lowered herself back into position. Her father paused, letting the blazing sting percolate through every tissue in her backside. Then he swung again.
Out in the kitchen, Michael and his mother sat in a rather awkward silence, sipping mugs of tea. The sound of the thrashing taking place in the drawing room was unmistakeable.
“I feel a bit sorry for her,” said Pat at length, “but she really brought this upon herself today.”
Back on the sofa Debbie was screeching and writhing and twisting under the onslaught as the leather slapped against the frail protection of her panties. Beneath them, her bottom was turning from red to purple to blue. Her father had never thrashed either of his children as hard as this before, but then neither had ever previously merited such punishment. It seemed to go on forever, but in reality it was probably not even five minutes. Finally, her father stood back and let the strap swing beside his right leg. He was slightly out of breath.
“Right. I hope that has taught you a lesson. Now get up, compose yourself, and go to your room. We don’t want to see you again tonight. Your mother will bring you some supper later. I suggest that you use the time to reassess your attitude and get used to the idea that the next year is going to be one of hard work.”
Debbie rubbed vainly at the furnace in her backside. She cast a red-eyed glance at her father and then scuttled upstairs, closing (not slamming) her bedroom door.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Debbie’s mother had found her ironing her pale blue ball gown.
“Julian’s taking me to Tessa Fanshawe’s coming-out dance on Saturday. I thought I’d wear this. Can I borrow one of your necklaces?”
“You’re not going anywhere, dear! After your behaviour on Tuesday you’re gated for the rest of the holidays. When you’ve gone to Bexhill and started studying properly and learned to behave respectfully, you may be allowed a social life again. Now put that dress away.”
“Oh, Mummy! Don’t be so mean! You can’t treat me like a child anymore!”
“I seem to remember that I treated you like a child the other day, whilst you lay on your bed, and your father treated you like a child that evening over the sofa. When you show a bit of maturity, then you can go out to grown-up events like balls. Right now, you’re staying in this house every night.”
“That’s just the stupidest thing I ever heard! How am I supposed to tell Julian that I can’t go out with him on Saturday? And what will Tess say when she sees I’m not there � I’m one of her best friends?”
“Perhaps your father or I should ring up and tell them why you’re not going.”
“Don’t you dare! Don’t even think of doing so! I’d die of shame!”
“Debbie, you’re going the right way to send me down to the closet again.”
“Go and shut yourself in it for all I care!” With that Debbie threw the iron down and stomped off to her room. This time she did slam the door.
Her mother raised her eyes to the ceiling: ‘Teenagers! Roll on September!’ she thought as she switched the off the iron and carefully folded the shimmering blue silk.
Later, when no-one was around, Debbie phoned Julian.
“Julian, awfully bad news! I have to go to a family funeral on Saturday. I won’t be able to make it to Tessa’s party.”
“Never mind, old thing. We’ll just have to get along without you. Have a nice time at the � what did you say it was? Oh, a funeral. Well I don’t suppose that’ll be much fun. Anyway, see you later, alligator!” He was already thumbing through his address book to see which of the debs might be most likely to succumb to his charms. A few minutes later he paused. ‘I say,’ he thought, ‘wasn’t she expecting a thrashing from her father? Must ask her about it sometime.’ He went through to the kitchen of his Sloane Street flat and picked up the bottle of Spanish medium white. When he reached Oddbins, he found the young manager.