“Edith, come to the front.” Ms. Maple ordered.
I had only just arrived in the classroom and class was not set to begin for another three minutes. I had a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach as I complied.
Ms. Maple then proceeded to ignore me. I stood quiet, unsure what was expected of me. Ever since the story in The Paper I have been finding my relations increasingly strained. As the rumors circulate and more and more of my peers and educators learn of my involvement, it seems the more contentious my presence becomes.
Wrong of me to assume I suppose, but my present position smacks of another encounter with the ever expanding wave of destruction my one time innocent comment has created. Had I any real doubt it would have vacated at the moment Ms. Maple pulled the stool from the corner and sat the white dunce cap on top. My stomach turned in knots as I considered the likely significance.
“Edith, I have been informed through a reliable source, you are the student responsible for suggesting the merging of classes with Brown?” She asked.
I considered her question more of a statement and wondered briefly if it would matter if I said no. I looked at the stool and closed my eyes before responding.
“Excellent. We have three guests from Brown who will be observing our class today. They will be composing essays which will be shared with the board in two weeks time.”
She paused to let me absorb the information.
“I have been asked to have a young woman also compose an essay on her thoughts regarding the young men attending the class. Would you agree you are the best candidate to write that essay in a positive light?”
I have never been good at reading people. Ms. Maple had led me to believe she was dissatisfied with me when our conversation had begun. However the question now dangled before me seemed indicative of approval and perhaps support.
I breathed a sigh of relief and allowed myself a small smile.
“Yes, Miss. I would be honored to represent the class in essay to the board.”
“Excellent. Take your seat for now, I will call you up a little later to assist me in a full demonstration of the scope of the class. I believe your involvement will give you an especially beneficial perspective for your essay.”
She smiled at me as she spoke. It was strange though because I had the impression she was almost laughing at me. I took my seat as expected and while I felt a little unsettled seeing the stool and dunce cap so prominently displayed I reminded myself it was most likely there as an unspoken warning to our imminent guests.
I briefly imagined a young man sitting on the stool with a sore bottom and the dunce cap balanced precariously on his head. If the boys are as badly behaved as rumors suggest I might want to take up drawing again. I smirked quietly in my seat daydreaming of the remote possibilities.
Once the class had settled in Ms. Maple informed the entire class of the day’s main event. Just as she concluded there was a soft knock at the door before it opened and three young men entered.
They appeared nervous. Their foreheads glistened with sweat and I had the impression they were a touch embarrassed to be present. One of them stepped forward more than the other two.
“Miss Maple?” He asked.
“Yes, do come in gentlemen. I have reserved three desks here at the front for you today.”
“Yes, Miss.” They replied together in disjointed harmony.
The young men seated themselves quickly and quietly. I was impressed by their respectful attitude.
“Before I begin with today’s lecture, I think it appropriate we discuss discipline. In my classroom these young ladies understand they are expected to behave with the utmost decorum. You will sit up straight and face forward. Your eyes will keep to me or your desktop. There is no talking unless I have given express permission for it.”
The young men nodded their understanding. No doubt the rules of behavior in classes at Primrose is of little difference from that of Brown.
“I see you understand. Good. Edith would you come to the front please.”
I rose from my desk and walked to the front of the room. I trembled slightly in nervousness as I wondered what I would be asked to demonstrate.
“So, there is no misunderstanding I will start the lesson by punishing Edith.”
My jaw dropped and I let out an involuntary gasp, as did many of my peers.
“Young ladies in this classroom are always punished on bare skin. Is that not correct, Edith?”
I felt so totally betrayed I hardly heard her speaking. My mind was too numb to formulate even the simple response she required.
“Edith!” She said sharply.
“Yes, Miss.” I blurted out in automatic response.
“Quite right. You may begin by removing your clothing now.”
“Yes, Miss.” I whispered.
My hands felt twice the size of normal as I fumbled with the buttons and ties of my dress. As I shed each item I blushed brighter and brighter until I was certain the blood was soon to be seeping through my skin. Stark naked I kept my back to the classroom and stared at the hardwood floor. ‘How could I have read her so wrong?’ I thought to myself.
“No need to be shy, Edith. Come here.” Ms. Maple ordered.
I moved to the center of the front of the room where she stood waiting for me with a foot long ruler in her hand.
“I use a variety of methods depending upon the nature of the behavior problems and the frequency of behavior problems from the young lady. We will start with a more mild discipline.” She paused to look at me.
“Face the class, Edith.” She said without kindness.
I turned slowly wishing the room would be vacant when I was finished.
“Hold your right hand out.”
Shaking, I did as I was told. The ruler cracked down on my upturned palm. I blinked away the stinging and held my hand steady as I knew she expected. The ruler cracked down again and was rapidly followed by three more. I shamed myself and cried out on the last.
“Left hand.” Ms. Maple ordered with hardly a pause.
I lowered my right hand shaking it slightly in a futile attempt to ease the stinging. My left hand shook in the air in front of me.
“Steady or shall I have one of these kind young men hold your arm?”
I took a deep breath and steadied my hand in response.
Ms. Maple’s response was to send the ruler cracking down on my palm. Tears stung at my eyes. She repeated her viciousness as before with my right hand. Again I cried out on the last.
“You may lower your hand.”
Relieved I did so and began shaking both of my hands vigorously at my sides. The classroom erupted with laughter and I blushed even hotter as I realized I had been bouncing my breasts around.
Ms. Maple traded the ruler in for her long paddle. She showed it to the visitors before turning to me.
“Turn around, bend over, and touch your toes.” She ordered.
I was happy to put my back to the class again and did so quickly despite knowing the paddle would soon be blistering my backside. I leaned down and touched my toes. My delight at turning from the class quickly faded as I realized I had an upside down view of the three young men and they had a perfect view of any part of me they desired.
Fortunately, Ms. Maple spared me a long contemplation of my humiliation. She swung the paddle hard. The resulting impact sounded like thunder as it echoed in the room. The young men twitched slightly as they watched it impact.
I grunted and sniffled.
I cried out and choked on tears.
I began to cry in earnest.
My tears dripped from the corners of my eyes up my forehead and into my hair.
I twitched my legs and nearly sprang upright as the burning incensed my nerves to involuntary reactions.
I squeezed my eyes shut and mumbled a pathetic plea for mercy.
I jumped up right. I grabbed my burning butt with both sore hands and jumped around in a circle making a complete fool of myself. I did not care though, I only desired this cruelest moment in my life to end.
“Get back down!” Ms. Maple shouted.
I ignored her until she grabbed hold of my arm. She propelled me toward the center desk of the three young men. He jumped out of his seat as she bent me over his desktop.
“Put your hands here and hold her down.” She ordered.
I felt cold hands press into my back. I struggled to push myself up but I did not have the strength to do it. She began swinging the paddle again but more rapidly so that the sound became an overlapping roar of thunder. I kicked my legs wildly and swung my fists back trying desperately to escape the barrage of swats.
I wailed and cried and sobbed. There was no relief, no mercy only unforgiving swats and fiery flesh twitching in uncontrolled response.
When my words became the blubbering of a child begging forgiveness and promising angelic behavior, the paddling ceased. I wanted only to lay there unmoving on the desktop until such time as the end of the world, but Ms. Maple had other plans.
I was hauled roughly to my feet by the young man who had held me down. Ms. Maple lifted the dunce cap from the stool and the young man sat me down hard upon it. I experienced a new level of pain as the hard surface met my tortured buttocks. The dunce cap was sat atop my head so that all the class could read it.
I stared down at myself, ashamed.
“Head up, face your peers, Edith. Keep your arms down at your sides and consider your behavior and choices for the rest of the day.”
I stared at my classmates through watery eyes. My body twitched from time to time as new sobs wracked my body. The young men were visibly more relaxed than when they had arrived. They each sported grins from ear to ear and as I looked at my fellow Primrose Girls I became more aware than ever of how alone I am.
Ms. Maple continued with class as normal. The rest of the day’s lesson revolved around the plays of William Shakespeare. At the conclusion of class I alone remained still on my perch waiting for the required permission to dress and leave.
“I hope you learned something of what having boys in classes at Primrose would mean today.” She said from behind me.
“Yes, Miss.” I sniffled.
“Good. I expect you will write an appropriate essay for the board then.”
“I have two more classes here today. Just to be sure you have plenty of time to think about it, you will stay put until they are over.”
I closed my eyes and fought back the angry retorts on the tip of my tongue.