Written for the Secrets and Lies challenge at LSF
Tobias Carpenter was jolted from the dry depths of the minutes from the last meeting of the Board of Trustees by the firm knock at the door, quiet but clearly audible even through the thick oak. It took him a minute to pull himself back to the present. Not that he was in the middle of anything that couldn’t be interrupted, he was expecting her after all. Besides, his duties to the students were more important to him than the business side of running the school.
“Come in,” he called as he sat back in his desk chair.
Samantha tiptoed into the room. Although she had spent the last four years at the school, she had never seen the inside of the headmaster’s office before. She had heard tales, of course, but the whispered stories her friends told never seemed to give much detail about what the room actually looked like. To her, it seemed one of the greatest secrets of the school, and the two-hundred year old building had it’s fair share of secrets. Looking around quickly, she realized it was everything she thought a headmaster’s study would be. Large bookshelves lined the room, which was dominated by the massive desk in the center. There was a fireplace opposite the window, probably a necessity at some point given the building’s age. It wasn’t in use today, but that wasn’t much of a surprise in the late May heat. She wondered briefly if it was still used in the colder months, imagining how the room would look in the warm glow, but quickly jolted herself back to the present hoping the headmaster hadn’t noticed her momentary lapse.
“Samantha Wells, sir. You asked me to see you after my classes were over today,” she proclaimed, pronouncing each syllable distinctly, as one might expect from the girl who would soon take her place as valedictorian of the graduating class.
“Yes, sit down. I’m afraid we have a very serious matter to discuss,” he said, gesturing to a chair on the opposite side of the desk.
Closing the heavy door with only the slightest clink as she released the handle, she crossed the room and perched on the very edge of the chair, her back perfectly straight and eyes forward in an almost militaristic posture. If she had been any other student, he would have thought this was a sign of fear, but with Samantha, everything about her was precise and intentional. Her blouse was crisp white without a hint of a wrinkle, tucked neatly into a plaid skirt that ended exactly three inches above her knees. Her shoes gleamed as though they had never touched ground and matched the shine in her dark black hair pulled back into a tight braid that fell neatly down the exact center of her back.
Once she had settled, if one could call it that, he started in. “Perhaps you would like to explain why you are here?” he asked, peering at her over the top of his spectacles.
“I lost a book, sir,” she stated simply. He gave her a moment to elaborate, but seeing as no further explanation was forthcoming, he continued.
“And not just any book I hear, but the diary of our founder, Charles Westworth. Do you understand how serious this is? If this were any other library book, you would simply need to cover the cost of a replacement. However, the book in question is one of a kind, a priceless and irreplaceable piece of our history. It’s not like you to be this thoughtless. Your record here has been exemplary. Do you have any explanation for your behavior?”
“No, sir,” she replied, quickly averting her gaze
“I fear you’ve left me with no choice,” he sighed as he retrieved the school paddle from his desk drawer and set it between them, looking at her significantly. Samantha stared at the paddle, but didn’t flinch. She had been expecting this. “You will receive ten strokes. Although I’ve never had cause to discipline you in this way before, I see no reason that you should receive any less than the maximum penalty for such carelessness. Do you accept your punishment?”
“Yes, sir,” Samantha responded, not taking her eyes off the paddle.
“I hear you had a birthday last month.”
“Yes, why do you ask?” Samantha glanced at him inquisitively, thrown by the apparent non-sequitur.
“Just a formality that must be observed. Your parents signed the authorization for corporal punishment, but as you are legally an adult now, we will need to have your written consent before we proceed.”
Samantha blushed. It was her first sign of humility since waltzing into his office, Mr. Carpenter realized. Perhaps there was a chance he could get through her composed exterior after all, he mused as she quickly signed the form and passed it back to him.
“Very well,” he said. “No sense in delaying. Stand up and bend over the desk.”
Unblinking she complied, not even twitching when she felt him lift her skirt, lowered her panties, and rested the paddle on her bare bottom.
When the first blow fell, she finally started responding. She made to rise, but he quickly laid a hand upon her lower back to encourage her to keep still. At the second stroke, she squirmed more energetically and emitted a low grunt. He increased the pressure on her back to hold her firmly in place as he administered the next several strokes, keeping his pace unhurried despite her increasingly frantic attempts to escape.
Samantha was in shock. She had no idea it could be like this. She became increasingly nervous with each stroke, unsure of how she could possibly survive ten. After the sixth stroke, she cried out, “Stop! STOP! This is all a terrible mistake.”
Bemused, he paused and lowered the paddle but didn’t remove his hand from her back. “I had thought we’d covered that earlier. Losing a valuable piece of this establishment’s history is a very terrible mistake indeed, hence your current situation.”
“No! No no no no no! I remember where I left it! It’s in Mr Hawkins’s classroom, on the third shelf from the left, tucked behind microscope number seven. We can stop now. I’ll go get it.” She made to rise, but he kept her firmly in place.
It was all he could do not to laugh out loud. A grin crept unbidden across his face, but fortunately she was in no position to see this. “What an astonishing revelation! I’ve seen some remarkable transformations take place under the school paddle, but never before has it bestowed such clairvoyance. Tell me, how did it end up there?”
“Erm. . .I must have left it there in a rush to clean up after biology yesterday,” Samantha offered, starting to feel rather trapped in more ways than one.
“How odd. Seems an strange place to bring a valuable book in the first place. I would hope you had good reason to do so. A reason worth remembering at any rate.”
Shifting uncomfortably, she replied sheepishly, “I’m sorry, sir. It must have slipped my mind.”
He couldn’t stop the chuckle this time. “Given your very accurate description of the book’s location, I would think there’s very little that slips your mind. Care to try again?”
For once the star pupil had nothing to say.
“Perhaps I can help. I would like to propose a theory. It’s nearly June. You’ve been a student here for the last four years and have kept yourself out of trouble. You’ve watched your friends fall afoul of one rule or the other, and felt sorry for them. They had bought themselves a great deal of trouble for a bit of fun. It hardly seemed worth it. But later, not right away, but after the memory fades a bit, they begin to discuss their experiences in this office. When the harsh memory of the pain is tempered by time the experience begins to sound intriguing. You begin to wonder what it is that happens in here, and want to experience it for yourself. Am I on the right track?”
Samantha didn’t think it was possible, but she felt herself blush even more deeply, and kept her face turned away. Had she truly been that transparent? His description was spot on, an understatement if anything. The way her friends described him was incredibly intriguing. Stern but loving, firm but fair. Sure, they had mentioned the pain, but it seemed almost like an afterthought. The late-night talks in the dormitories had romanticized the spankings in the headmaster’s office to the point that she felt she had truly missed out on a key part of the academy experience.
“I’m waiting,” he said sternly, tapping her bottom with the paddle.
“Yes sir,” she choked out. “I wanted to try it for myself. I just didn’t realize it would actually hurt.” She had been thinking of it as a bit of a game, she realized, and she had been completely unprepared to pay the price. She had carefully planned every movement that would get her into the office, but hadn’t given much thought to what would happen once she was actually there. She had assumed she knew how Mr Carpenter would react and hadn’t given a spare thought to how he would feel if he somehow discovered her plot. She had been certain there was no risk of that; she had been very careful. The slight nervousness she felt ever since she had entered the office began to give way to something else, a deep, sinking feeling that was in no way pleasant.
“You thought Tammy something of a wimp didn’t you? Thought you could handle it better,” he encouraged with another chuckle.
Samantha’s roommate Tammy certainly had made the most of her time at the academy. Never one to shy away from a prank because she might get caught, Tammy must have set a school record for the number of times she had visited this office. Samantha had almost gotten used to coming back to her room to find Tammy crying softly on her bed. She never seemed to resent it though, so Samantha figured it couldn’t be too bad. With the way she talked about the sessions afterward, Samantha was almost jealous of the relationship she had formed with the headmaster. Sure, she sniffled quite a bit each time, but Samantha had just assumed the poor girl’s pain tolerance, like her common sense, must be somewhat below average. Though now she realized Tammy was a lot tougher than she had thought.
“I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t realize. . .” Samantha sniffed. “I’ll return the book. I’m sorry I’ve wasted your time. May I go now?” she asked hopefully.
“Not so fast. We’re not quite done here.”
“But I didn’t do any thing wrong!” Samantha pleaded as she tried to rise again only to be stopped by Mr. Carpenter’s heavy hand.
“Is that so? And why, do you think, would lying to a member of the school staff be considered ‘nothing wrong?’”
Again Samantha had no answer. The small knot of guilt that had been forming in her stomach grew to the point that it choked off her speech. She deserved this, she realized. Giving herself over to the feeling of remorse, she stopped her attempts to rise and slumped bonelessly onto the desk, surrendering herself to the headmaster and whatever he decided she deserved to make things right again.
“I see we’re on the same page then,” the headmaster continued gently. “This punishment is very much deserved, just not for the reasons you told yourself when you came here. Let’s get on with it. I want you to count these, to make sure the message is getting across. I believe you’ve already had six.”
Before she realized what was happening, the next stroke fell.
“One, sir,” she choked out after a pause to catch her breath.
His eyebrows raised. He hadn’t intended for her to start over, but didn’t bother to share this notion. She clearly needed this more than either of them had assumed when she had first strode into his office.
The paddling continued steadily and every bit as hard as the first six strokes, though she remained in position without protest this time. Instead of feeding her sense of anxiety, the pain gradually ate away at her guilt, forcing it out through her tears. By the time it was over she was crying freely as he stroked her back.
He paused, unsure if the normally composed student would respond well to his typical post-paddling hug. Deciding that there was no point in treating her any differently than the rest of the students, he allowed her to stand and wrapped her in his arms. He needn’t have worried, he realized, as she rested her head on his shoulder to finish crying.
She was shocked at her actions. She couldn’t remember the last time she had cried, or the last time she had been hugged for that matter. This must be the secret of this room, she thought. This was the secret that the other girls shared in whispers about their experience here. There was pain, yes, but also understanding and healing.
When she finally looked up, he could see that her expression had changed drastically from the harshness it had possessed when their conversation began. Behind the icy coating she really was a very pretty girl he thought as he gave her one last quick hug before dismissing her. She hugged him back, assuring him that she had learned her lesson, and departed leaving his office every bit as confident as she had entered, but with a touch of softness in her posture that made her look almost human.