Briarwood was a school that thrived on tradition. For almost every occasion of daily life there was a well-established procedure. There were traditions for sports matches, traditions for welcoming new pupils, traditions to be observed at each and every meal time. Tradition was especially important where discipline was concerned. The least changing of all the traditions was that for a Prefect’s Caning. That moment when the Head Boy used the authority he had to teach someone a lesson he would never forget.
The victim would know from just after breakfast that morning when his name would go up on the prefect’s noticeboard that he was for ‘the whack.’ The note could not be any shorter or more succinct. ‘Jenkins – Cane’ it would say. The poor boy would then spend the rest in a state of acute anxiety dreading what would happen that evening. He would know to remain in school uniform when everyone else was turning in for bed and would sit unhappily in his room waiting for the knock on the door that would come soon after ‘lights out.’ One of the prefects would come for him and he would be led, in silence downstairs to the prefects’ common room. There all the prefects would be assembled. He would have to shake the hand of each before going through into the Head Boy’s study. The door would close and all would listen to see how many strokes were to be given this time. After a few minutes the victim would emerge, trying to put a brave face on things. Again he would be required to shake hands with all assembled before being allowed to depart to his room, his punishment completed. It was a ritual designed to strike fear into the stoutest of hearts. It would happen perhaps once or twice a term and when it did the whole school would be aware of it. In many ways it was a more fearful thing to be caned by the Head Boy than by the Headmaster himself.
Tonight was one of those nights when the ritual would be enacted again. Except tonight it was different. Tonight was a first. For the first time in the whole history of briarwood it would not be a boy who would be getting ‘the whack’ tonight, but a girl. Girls had been admitted to the sixth-form at Briarwood three years ago and some had doubted that this moment would ever come. And yet the demands of equality were unanswerable and a girl who had offended in the way that Amy Brenton had done could expect only one outcome.
Amy Brenton, 18 years old, Upper Sixth. Amy Brenton who now sat, dressed in full school uniform, in her room, nervously awaiting the knock on the door. She knew she was in trouble, knew that her excuse that she had only ‘borrowed’ the money had cut no ice with the prefects who had questioned her. And yet it was a shock when her name had gone up on the prefect’s noticeboard. ‘Brenton – Cane.’ It had read. She had stood and looked at it in utter disbelief, a crowd of fellow pupils gathering round her as she stood there staring at the little hand-written note. It couldn’t be true, it couldn’t be. Surely there was a mistake – they weren’t allowed to cane girls were they? And yet they were. She had checked the rules and it was all too clear that they were well within their rights to order this particular punishment. The only concession made to her sex was that she was allowed to nominate a chaperone to stay in the room with her whilst she was being punished. She had dismissed the idea instantly – it was going to be embarrassing enough without the added humiliation of a witness.
Amy checked herself in the mirror again. She was determined to present a perfect appearance – determined to carry this off with as much dignity and self-respect as she could manage. Her yellow blouse was sharply pressed, her striped tie done up with the neatest of knots, the maroon blazer brushed and clean, the pleats in her navy skirt as sharp as they ever had been, her stockings straight. She took her hairbrush and ran it through her blonde hair again, although she had already brushed it to an impressive shine, it was something to do while she waited.
She wondered what it would be like. How much would it hurt? She couldn’t imagine, never having suffered the indignity of corporal punishment before. Her only comfort was that others had been through it before her –indeed she knew one or two of them, and they had survived the experience. She was resolved to be brave, not to show her fear, not to give way to the tears that weren’t far below the surface. She shifted uneasily in the chair, only too aware that she would not be able to sit as comfortably as this on her return. Lights out had been called five minutes previously but still no one came. They were playing with her; making her wait? A flicker of hope stirred in her heart. Perhaps they had forgotton? Perhaps it had all been a mistake? Perhaps they had decided to let her off now that they had scared her?
Amy jumped as there was a firm rap on the door. Her heart beat madly in her chest. The door opened. It was John Clayton, one of the senior prefects. Amy got to her feet, trying to control her trembling legs. ‘Come with me please Brenton.’ John said.
Amy followed him from the room, down the darkened corridors and the dimly lit staircase. It all looked so different at this time of night. And the place was so quiet, it was as though everyone was still and listening, hearing her footsteps, knowing where she was headed.
The Prefect’s Common room was well lit. All the senior prefects were there, nine boys and two girls. She knew them all, fellow pupils in the sixth form, some whom she counted as friends. There were no smiles of friendship now. She went down the line as she knew she should, gravely shaking hands with each. Caroline and Fiona both squeezed her hand strongly, trying to give her courage for the ordeal that lay ahead. They were the last in the line, beyond them was the door to the Head Boy’s study. Amy took a deep breath and knocked firmly on the door.
‘Enter’ she heard Mark call.
Without looking back she turned the handle and went in.
Mark was standing in the centre of the room. He was a strong young man, handsome and well-built, captain both of Cricket and Squash. Usually Amy got on well with him, indeed they had had something of a flirtatious relationship with a strong degree of mutual attraction. There was to be no flirting now.
Mark cleared his throat. ‘Right Miss Brenton, we both know why you’re here. You have been caught stealing from other pupils. That sort of behaviour is totally unacceptable at Briarwood. You will be punished. The prefects have met and have determined what your punishment will be. Amy Brenton you will take eight strokes of the cane.’
Amy felt her heart go into her mouth. Eight strokes! She had been expecting three, four at the most.
Mark was still talking. ‘You have the right to appeal this punishment to the headmaster. However, I should warn you that if he finds against you then he will award double the original sentence. Do you wish to appeal?’
Amy mutely shook her head.
‘I have to hear you say it.’ Mark said a little more gently.
Amy found her voice. ‘No, I don’t want to appeal.’
Mark nodded. ‘Very well.’ He went over to the mantelpiece and drew down a long crook-handled rattan cane. Amy looked at the horrid thing with wide-eyes. Mark flexed it in his strong hands. ‘Take your blazer off Amy and put it on the chair.’
Amy slipped her school blazer from her shoulders and draped it over the chair back.
‘Lower your knickers, lift your skirt and bend over the desk.’ Mark ordered.
Amy looked at him in disbelief. Had he really told her to take her panties down? But surely… ? He didn’t mean to cane her on the bare did he?
Mark saw her expression. ‘You heard me.’ He said. ‘The cane is always taken on the bare bottom at Briarwood.’
‘But… but… I’m a girl!’ Amy protested.
‘The rules are no different for girls’ Mark told her ‘You can check if you like. That’s why you had the option for a chaperone. You may still chose to have one if you wish – I’m sure Caroline or Fiona would oblige.’
Amy’s mind was in a whirl. She hadn’t expected this, hadn’t even thought it might happen. Yet she knew that every boy who had had the cane had had it bare – why on earth had she imagined it would be different for her? She fought back the tears that were coming to her eyes. There was no way out.
She didn’t say anything but simply reached up inside her skirt and slid her knickers down. She lifted the hem of her skirt and bent forward over the desk. The air was suddenly cold on her bare cheeks. She shivered. She felt horribly vulnerable, horribly exposed. She knew that Mark was looking at her, enjoying her nakedness. She was hugely aware of her bare bottom. She had often worried it was too big, that was the least of her worries now.
Mark pressed the lower part of her back with his hand. ‘Dip your back and raise your bottom.’ He instructed.
Amy obeyed him, knowing that arguing was futile; in this situation he had all the power, she had none.
She felt him place the cane across the middle of her bare cheeks. She shivered. The cane was withdrawn as Mark raised it for the first stroke. Amy closed her eyes and took a deep breath. There was a swish behind her and then a sharp crack as the cane hit home. It was a fraction of a second later that Amy felt it – a burning line of pain that seemed to cut right through her, driving the breath from her body in a gasp of pain. She heard Mark speak from what seemed like a million miles away.
‘Count them aloud. And thank me for each.’ He instructed.
It took a few seconds before Amy could find the breath to obey his instruction.
‘One…. Thank you.’ She managed to say at last.
The second stroke was delivered almost immediately, catching Amy just half an inch below where the first had landed. Her knuckles went white as she gripped the edge of the desk, desperately fighting the urge to stand and clutch her sore bottom.
‘T… t… two…. Thank-you.’ She managed to stammer.
The third stroke was, if anything a touch harder than the first two. Amy stifled a scream of pain. She knew they were listening outside the door and she didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of hearing how much this was hurting. Hurting it certainly was. She found it hard to believe just how painful this punishment was. Each stroke produced a line of pure agony, that reached its height seconds after it was delivered and seemed to take an age to begin to slowly subside. She could feel each of the three red stripes and suspected she would continue to feel them every time she sat down for the next few days.
Three… thank you.’ She said.
Now Mark slowed things down. Taking his time with Amy, leaving room between each stroke. In her vulnerable position over the desk Amy suspected that he was relishing this – enjoying having her like this, half-naked in front of him. She didn’t know whether that thought pleased or angered her; it was hard to think straight when your bottom was on fire.
Again and again the cane swished down. Amy took it as well as she could, maintaining her position over the desk, meeting each stroke with a gasp of pain and then the verbal acknowledgment of the number.
‘Seven… thank-you.’ She said.
Just one more to go. Amy knew the tradition for this too. Last stroke – hardest stroke. That was the way it was done and being Briarwood there would be no deviation from that established routine. Amy readied herself – taking a firmer grip on the edge of the desk, trying to stay as calm as she could. She glanced back over her shoulder. She saw Mark had gone back a step. As she met his eyes he came forward a pace, the cane raised high, stepping into the stroke to give it added momentum. It caught Amy low – just in the crease where bottom meets thigh. She couldn’t help but cry out. She stamped her foot on the floor as she tried to ride the pain, but still it burned into her, making the tears that she had fought back come unbidden and unwelcome to her eyes.
It took her a full twenty seconds before she could say the words ‘Eight… eight strokes… thank you.’
‘Stand up.’ Mark said.
Shakily Amy got to her feet, pressing her hands to her bottom that was hot to the touch. She could feel the raised lines where the cane had struck, each line throbbing with pain.
‘Pull up your knickers.’ Mark ordered.
Amy eased her knickers up over her smarting bottom, wincing as the material rubbed against her sore flesh. She straightened out her skirt and rubbed her hand across her face to brush away the tears. Mark offered his hand.
"Well done Amy, you took that bravely.’
Amy managed a weak smile as she shook hands.
Mark opened the study door and ushered Amy out. She found it hard to look the prefects in the eye as she went along the line shaking hands, although she noticed that most people shook her hand warmly.
Then it was over and she could go back to her room. She walked slowly back, wincing with each painful step. She suspected that few of her fellow pupils were asleep, everyone would have been waiting to hear her return, knowing that a very sore and chastened girl would definitely be sleeping on her tummy that night.