As she neared her study door Sarah was surprised at the strange sounds she could hear coming from inside the room. It didn't sound like the voice of her study-mate, Natalie, in fact it didn't seem to be in English - or indeed in any other language that Sarah knew. Perhaps a cat, or some other animal, had got into her study.
Sarah had been at Moorpark Girls' Public School since the beginning of that term and had been very relieved that she got on so well with the girl she had to share her study with. Natalie seemed to be a very nice girl, and although at first Sarah had been put of by her slightly superior manner and air of worldly sophistication, they were now good friends.
Sarah opened the door and went in, wondering at the cause of the strange noises. She was amazed at the sight of Natalie, in full school uniform except for her blazer, leaning on the study table and rocking herself to and fro. She was uttering a succession of ejaculations in a low, pained voice: "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!"
Sarah couldn't understand it. It had been Natalie who had been making those peculiar sounds. But why?
Natalie looked up as Sarah entered the room.
"Ow! Wow! Hello Sarah. I've been waiting for you. Oh! Oh! Oww! Could you lock the door, please. Ow! My poor bum!"
Sarah couldn't understand what was going on, but she could see that her friend was obviously in pain.
"What on earth's happened, Natalie? Has someone hurt you?"
"Oww! Yes! Mrs Naylor hurt me! Isn't it bloody obvious? I've had the cane, haven't I! And it hurts like hell! Christ! She laid it on like beating a carpet! Ow! Ow! Come on, Sarah, get that door locked and give me some help."
Any other girl in the school other than Sarah would have realised what had happened earlier, but the new girl had only vaguely known that the cane was used as an instrument of punishment and had never dreamed that sixteen year olds like herself and Natalie could still be subject to it.
"Oh! Natalie!!" she gasped in shock, and turned to lock the door.
The caned girl was now standing upright besides the study table. She was naturally fair-skinned, but now her face was a couple of shades paler than usual. Sarah could see that she was fighting hard to stop tears from coming.
"When did it happen, Natalie? What on earth did you do?"
"Just five minutes ago. It was my own fault. She caught me in her office. I was looking for that bracelet she confiscated at the beginning of term. Clare told me she'd gone out of gates. Ow! One minute I was looking in the drawers of her desk and the next I was bending over it with my skirt pulled up! Eight on the pants! And every one was a real swipe! And she gave me lines and detention as well. Bitch!"
"But, Natalie, I didn't even know she was allowed to hit us!"
"What! Why do you think Marie Porter's quietened down so much, and walks about looking so sorry for herself? Six from Mrs N on Thursday evening, that's why! Anyway do me a favour and get the cold cream out of the cupboard. My bottom's stinging like crazy! I've never had it half as bad as this before!"
Sarah took a large jar of zinc and castor oil cream from the cupboard. She could see that there was still a lot she had to learn at this school!