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As usual in the Bexhill series, the emphasis in this book is on good writing, character development, and touches of humour.
And so we start a new year at Bexhill, but before we do so, we learn of a shocking tale of deviousness by one of our main characters. Fancy setting off across Europe bent on a shameless fling with some foreign ‘gentleman’! I’m glad to say that Catharine gets her come-uppance, but I’d certainly like to know the name of the cad she went to visit.
Anyway, here we are all assembled once again, with a new Deputy Head to help run the school. With him, Mr Austen-Smith brings half-a-dozen boys from his old establishment. Now, I want to make it perfectly clear that the boys are here for purely educational purposes: I certainly don’t want... ah... for want of a better word... sex rearing its ugly head around this school. Trust me: there’ll be the severest sanctions for any of you caught dallying.
In this respect, I’m sure that we can expect Cynthia � our new Head Girl � to set a jolly good example of firmness and fairness, especially as rumour has it that there are some trouble-makers among the boys.
Yes � I’m looking at you, Algy.
What do you mean? ‘Butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth’ eh? I’m not standing for any cheek from you, boy. Come up and see me afterwards. We’ll see what effect a good, warm bottom has on butter, shall we? Ha! Ha! Ha!
And speaking of Cynthia, the curiosity of our two French exchange students leads to an unwise ‘midnight feast’. Our Head Girl is called upon to wield her badge of office to particularly swishy effect.
Now, of all the half-baked ideas I’ve ever heard of, Sally and Linda’s little money-raising prank takes the biscuit. They richly deserve everything they get, as � I’m sure � does their unwitting beneficiary.
The four members of the Bexhill Spanking Society, cagey of resuming their activities after that debacle in the garden shed, just can’t leave well enough alone. Libraries are for serious books, not the kind of smut these four girls want to put on the shelves.
Girls (and boys, for that matter) must learn not to play with themselves. It’s a disgusting, abhorrent habit and it will be firmly, and if necessary painfully, stamped out.
Life is one of snakes and ladders for Debbie. What’s your guess? Does she end the term on the up or on the down?
And if there weren’t any girls present, Algy, your pants would be on the ‘down’ right now. Oh well, we’ll just have to compromise: perhaps you’d be good enough to bend down? Thank you: this won’t take long.
Chapter 1: Playing away
The trouble with life is that it is full of unpredictable coincidences, coincidences that can be exploited to their own ends by those of spiteful intent. For example, who would have guessed that Vicky had a cousin who lived just a few miles from Catharine’s boyfriend, James?
“Yes, they know each other well,” Vicky had turned to Debbie, who was sitting beside her on the train taking them home at the end of the summer term. Deep inside herself, Debbie purred with satisfaction. So, choosing a seat next to the dull and boring Vicky had been a good move after all. Debbie tried to find a more comfortable position for her bottom, still aching after the thrashing it had so recently suffered at the hands of Mrs Winchester. Or � more exactly � at the business end of Stinger, that horrid, heavy hairbrush.
“Oh really? What’s he like?”
“Who? My cousin?”
“Mmmm. He’s really dishy! He’s a terrific catch � lots of girls were after him until Catharine got her hooks into him.”
“I thought Catharine seemed rather taken with Mr Vicente at the end-of-term dance.”
“Yes, she did rather, didn’t she? I hope James doesn’t find out.”
Debbie snuck her neighbour a sidelong look.
“Seems to me she’s being a bit greedy: why should she be allowed to corner two hunks all for herself?”
“Lucky her, I say.”
“I was thinking more of James. I don’t like seeing nice people being two-timed.”
Their conversation was interrupted as the train roared through a tunnel. Debbie got up and pulled the leather strap, closing the compartment window before it filled with choking smoke from the engine. A minute later the train hurtled back into bright daylight.
“Well, there’s not much we can do about it,” the unimaginative Vicky mused.
“On the contrary, there’s lots you could do. Like a quiet word with your cousin and the suggestion that he should mention Catharine’s duplicity to his friend...”
“I’m not sure I really want to be involved. It would be a bit like sneaking.”
Debbie wanted to slap the silly girl. She fixed Vicky with a penetrating stare.
“Vicky, you ought to get something clear: there’s a difference between telling tales on someone, and doing a favour to a decent and innocent person by warning him that he’s being strung along. Think about it.”
For a couple of minutes, Vicky did so. She mulled Debbie’s suggestion: it would be easy enough to say something to Gordon, of course, but what was in it for her? She could hardly hope to inherit the delicious James herself. On the other hand, she thought Debbie was definitely in the running to be a Prefect next term (she was unaware of how badly Debbie’s boats had been burned as she had lain yelling and writhing over the Headmistress’s knees). It was always wise to be on the good side of a Prefect.
“Do you really think I should?”
Debbie heaved a silent sigh of relief. “Actually, I think you have a moral obligation to do so. Place yourself in James’ position: would you want to go out with a boy who had the hots for someone else?”
Put like that, it seemed perfectly reasonable. “OK,” she said, “I’ll speak with my cousin.”
“Good girl! Now, what are you going to do with yourself during the holidays?”
Debbie fell into a reverie. She couldn’t care less how Vicky was going to disport herself: she was dreaming of what would happen when the newly-informed James met Catharine. Debbie always enjoyed a good firework display.
* * * * *
The night she got home from school, Catharine called James. He sounded delighted to hear her voice and they arranged to meet for lunch in town on the next Saturday. Catharine was disappointed that he hadn’t suggested dinner, as she associated an evening rendez-vous with romance. Never mind, it would be great just to see him again and the whole long holiday stretched ahead. She wasn’t going abroad this year � perhaps her parents had taken fright after last year’s debacle � so she had every intention of developing the relationship with James.
On the day, Catharine (with a bit of help from her elder sister, Jane) made herself up and dressed in a loose shirt with a cleavage that revealed her nicely-ripening breasts, and an expensive pair of snugly-fitting white slacks. As she examined herself in the mirror, she was pleased with the overall effect. Jane playfully smacked the well-defined curve of her bottom and wished her luck.
She met James at the bus station, but far from the embrace she had been expecting, he seemed distant and aloof, not returning the disappointed peck she gave him on his cheek.
“Where are we going?” she asked brightly.
“The park. We need to talk.” A flutter of concern ran through her as he walked briskly off, not offering her his hand. She trailed along beside him, the silence unnerving her.
The park was a large area of open country on the outskirts of the small town. The public facilities � a children’s playground, a pitch that served for cricket in the summer and football in the winter � soon gave way to woods through which rides and paths meandered, dotted with the occasional bench on which walkers could take a rest. After ten minutes of brisk striding, James headed down a secluded path around a small lake. He stopped beside a bench.
“Sit down. I have a bone to pick with you.”
Catharine lowered herself demurely on to the wooden slats. James plonked himself down a couple of feet away.
“What’s all this about?” she asked, anxiety in her voice.
“What are you about? That’s the question I’d like answered.”
“What do you mean, James?”
“Well, a little birdie tells me that you were having ever such a good time at the school dance.”
Oh Lord! How did he know about that?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” It wasn’t very convincing, but it might buy some time.
“Don’t come the innocent with me, Catharine, you know exactly what I’m referring to. The whole evening spent with some smarmy Spanish grease-ball, and then just a teensy-weeny snog at the end.”
“It wasn’t anything, honestly. And he’s not smarmy.”
“And I suppose he doesn’t taste of garlic.”
“I just gave him a tiny kiss, to thank him for the dances.”
“And I don’t suppose it was your ‘phone number you were giving him on that bit of paper? Oh no, it must have been a testimonial to his flamenco skills.” He spat the words out harshly.
How the hell did he know about the telephone number? Who’d seen her do that? She was now blushing.
“He asked me for it and I...well, I thought it would be rude to say ‘No’.”
“Oh, definitely,” the sarcasm was heavy. “Well, I don’t suppose a teacher can afford too many long-distance calls from Spain, so you’d better keep your tender murmurings short.”
“James, it’s not like that. We’re just friends. He’s a teacher, for heaven’s sake. I’m just one his pupils. You’re the man in my life.” There was a note of desperation.
“Maybe I was the man in your life, but I’m not any more. I don’t play second fiddle to any hairy olive-picker.”
Catharine felt anger replacing her other emotions.
“You’re just jealous about nothing, and there’s no need to insult Juan, he’s very nice.”
“ ‘Juan’, eh, and he’s ‘very nice’. Well that’s all right then. I’m very happy for you.” The bitterness was tangible.
“Oh for God’s sake grow up, James. All I did was dance with the guy a few times, there’s no need to get all snotty about it.”
“So now I’m snotty, am I? Snotty, because I don’t like my friends sniggering at me because I’m being double-crossed by some silly, slutty little girl? It’s you who needs to grow up!” He folded his arms and looked away.
“You’re behaving like some spoiled and jealous brat. And don’t call me ‘slutty’! Just get over it!”
He turned to her, eyes blazing.
“The only thing that anyone’s going to get over is my lap, and it’s you who’s going to do the getting over.”
“This is what happens to unfaithful, cheating tarts...” He didn’t finish. He just grabbed her left wrist and in one fluid movement pulled her, shocked and protesting, over his knees, pinioning her right arm by her side.
“Let me go! Let me go at once!” she screeched, her legs flailing.
He shifted slightly on the seat, positioning her more firmly. He hooked his right leg over hers to restrain them. Then he started to spank her, hard and rhythmically, first on one taut white cotton cheek and then the other. The smacks rained down, slow and deliberate. He was strongly built and even through two layers of material � the slacks and her knickers � the blows were painful. But far more painful was the indignity.
“James, how dare you! Let me up immediately. Ooow! Stop it! Ooow! For God’s sake, someone might see us! Ooooww! Stop, stop it!”
But James didn’t stop. His right arm flailed away, and with it his fury at the way he’d been treated by this girl began slowly-slowly to abate. The smacks continued to whack down on that lovely, desirable derri�re, the bottom he’d once so coveted, together with the rest of this lovely girl. But she’d made a laughing-stock of him: Gordon had made that quite clear. His friend’s niece had said that all the girls at Bexhill were sniggering about him: how he was a buffoon for not realising that Catharine now had eyes only for her Spaniard. She deserved what she was getting, and he’d show her. He raised his arm higher and slammed the smacks down; the girl responded by yelping and wriggling even more vigorously, but he wasn’t going to let her up yet.
The plumy voice made him jump. He froze, hand high above his shoulder. Catharine, who had been trying to endure the assault by setting her face in a mask, opened her eyes wide. A middle-aged couple emerged from the woods behind them and walked past the bench, their Golden Labrador tugging at its leash. They looked straight ahead, disappearing around a bend in the path. The husband’s voice carried in the still air as he spoke to his wife: “So, old trout, is everything set for the church f�te?”
James lowered his hand.
“OK. You’d better get up.”
Puce with embarrassment, Catharine levered herself upright, one hand massaging at the glow beneath the thin slacks.
“They must have seen us,” she croaked.
“Obviously. Did you know them?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then what are you worried about?”
“James!” She hissed, and then, uncharacteristically, “Fuck you!”
“Too late for that. You’ll have to ask your precious Spanish se�or.”
Catharine glared at him, spun on her heel, and strode off down the path back towards the town, her emotions tumbling and churning within her. Moments later, she was crying: great, heaving, self-pitying sobs. She fumbled for a handkerchief and blew her nose loudly.
It took almost a quarter of an hour to reach the town, by which time her make-up was blotched and her mascara had run. She knew that she must look a complete mess. As she regained the bus station, she stopped and took out her powder compact. She was dabbing at her eyes in the tiny mirror when she noticed the reflection of James, standing just behind her. He put a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m sorry it should end like this.”
She turned to face him, sombre, shoulders rising and falling with her tears.
He looked at her.
“We could have had a wonderful time together. I loved you, I really did.”
The tears came faster now.
“I’m sorry.” Her words were almost inaudible.
“I hope it all goes well for you, honestly. Look after yourself.” He leaned forward and kissed her softly on the forehead, an action which reduced her once again to a pathetically blubbering mess.
When she looked up from the mirror, he’d gone.
She sat at the back of the bus, gazing without seeing as the fields and farms sped past, her eyes � and bottom � sore.
* * * * *
“He spanked her? In public? And someone actually saw them?” Debbie couldn’t keep the delighted incredulity out of her voice. This was better than her wildest dreams.
“Yes,” said Vicky breathlessly down the telephone, “James told my cousin all about it in the pub last night and then Gordon rang me with the details. James told Gordon that he fairly walloped her and only stopped when that couple came past with their dog.”
“James said he wasn’t going to be anyone’s laughing-stock and if Catharine was cheating on him, she’d got everything she deserved.”
“I should think so, too. I hope he’s broken it off with her.” said Debbie, with smug satisfaction.
“Oh he has, completely. He can’t stand her now.”
Yes! Yes! Debbie punched the air.
“Anyway, Debbie, I thought I’d call you and let you know what had happened. Are you having a good holiday?”
“Marvellous, thank you, couldn’t be better. And I hope you are, too.”
“Oh yes! We must speak again, Debbie, it’s such fun talking to you.”
“Yes, of course.” A note of reticence crept in: she didn’t want the silly girl bothering her every few days. On the other hand, with the news she’d just been given, she did owe Vicky one.
�“Let’s speak again soon. I look forward to it. Must go: bye for now.”
As Debbie put the telephone down, she wondered how she should celebrate. What about a nice treat? She almost skipped to the new Wimpy Bar and ordered a double-burger with all the trimmings. This wasn’t a moment to practice self-denial.