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by LSF Publications

1. First Impressions Count

by Anthony Alba

"Any idea what this is all about?"

Stacy looked up from her smart phone where she had been busy organising her attendance at the rave party being organised for that evening.

"I mean it's like a who's who of troublemakers," Barbara, who had spoken earlier, went on. As she spoke her gaze flicked across the room. Designed to hold hundreds, the assembly hall looked empty with just over twenty girls there.

Stacy shrugged. She had noticed the same thing herself when she had arrived. Most were sixth formers like her and Barbara and they had a reputation for a certain disregard for the school rules. She turned her attention back to the phone and finished typing the text. The rave was going to be in the nearby town and strictly speaking it was considered out of bounds for the borders during a school night. She had never let little details like that stop her.

"I've never heard of anything like this before," Barbara went on. Stacy glanced up at the girl again. She looked nervous. She kept shuffling her feet and she was biting her lip though Stacy doubted if Barbara was aware of that. And the way she was speaking. It was like someone looking for a distraction.

"I was just told to leave class and report here. Not that I minded. It was bug-eyed Holmes going on about Benzene rings and the importance of organic chemistry." Her tone spoke louder that words on what she thought about the joys of that subject.

Then she leaned closer and her voice dropped so that there was no risk of any of the other girls hearing her. "I wonder, has it something to do with the new Head's car?" Barbara's eyes narrowed as she studied Stacy carefully. "Was it you?"

"Was it me what?" Stacy muttered as she scowled at the girl.

Barbara immediately held up her hands defensively as if expecting an attack. "Sorry I asked. It was great though if it was you. Letting him know that we won't be intimidated just because that doddery old fool Chambers is gone."

Stacy nodded absently. She had rather liked their old Headmaster Chambers. He had retired last summer but before that she was sure he had gone senile. No matter what the girls got up to all they got was a stern lecture. It didn't matter if you got detention or lines, he never seemed to remember who he had ordered punished and therefore never checked that they had showed up for detention. It had been great.

"Who's that?" she asked nodding to a girl standing alone. She was pretty enough, medium height with lovely auburn hair worn in a ponytail. Aside from standing alone Stacy did not recognise her face.

Following her gaze Barbara frowned at the interloper. A moment later she shook her head. "Don't know. Guess she must be new." It was not unheard of for a girl to start at Grange Academy for Girls as late as sixth form but it was unusual. And why was she here? The moment Stacy had arrived in response to her own summons she had noticed the common denominator between the girls here. They were all considered to be troublemakers in one way or another. This girl was too new to have earned the honour of standing with such company.

Barbara was not long distracted and she turned back to Stacy. "I hear that the school might be closing in a year or two if things don't change. I heard Daddy talking. Seems last year's exam results were the worst ever. Everyone says that Chambers ran the place into the ground."

Again her voice dropped, to just above a whisper. Even standing right beside her Stacy had to strain to hear her. "I heard Daddy talking to Helen Anderson who is on the Board of Governors. Our new Head is some sort of trouble-shooter, sent in to save the school."

For the first time Stacy paid attention. Barbara could be an airhead at times, well most of the time, but her father was well connected with a lot of people. Not that the same could not be said for most of the parents of the girls here but Barbara's dad had his fingers in more pies than nearly anyone else. Barbara could be a very useful source of information at times.

"What do we care? One year and we're out of here." She glanced down at her uniform as a scowl distorted her beautiful face. She had done her best to adapt the uniform to make it a bit hipper. Her pleated grey skirt was short enough that one might have thought it was a games skirt and she wore heels when school rules said all shoes were to be flats. She made sure always to have her blouse a size too small to show off her curves, but still one could only do so much with dross. "No more crap uniform, no more useless lessons. Freedom."

"Good morning ladies," a strong male voice boomed out and Stacy turned to look at the stage ahead of them. It had been empty before except for the usual podium where school announcements were made. That and a single chair turned away from the crowd of girls. Now an imposing man was walking across from the side door.

Not bad, Stacy thought to herself. He was reasonably tall, with curly black hair and while it was hard to tell under his jacket and black academic gown, he looked like he worked out. Stacy frowned. Surely this could not be the new Headmaster. He could not be a day over thirty. His predecessor had looked old enough to teach Queen Victoria when she was a girl.

Then her frown deepened. What was that tucked under his left arm? It looked suspiciously like a cane.

"My name is Richard Armitage, and I am your new Headmaster. With my illustrious predecessor now enjoying a well-earned retirement there are going to be some new changes around here. We at Grange Academy need to buck up our ideas and it's my job to make sure that happens."

He went silent for a few seconds as he studied each of them in turn. Whatever he was thinking his expression remained mild, calm. He did nod to himself when he was finished his scrutiny. Something had been confirmed in his mind.

"Exam results are going to improve." He did not make it a request or aspiration just a firm statement of what would happen. "Discipline will improve." Again there was no question in is statement just iron certainty.

"The new school disciplinary policy will be announced at Assembly tomorrow but I do not want any girl to get into trouble simply because she thinks things will be the way they were before. That would be most unfair."

His tone never changed but Stacy felt a cold shiver run down her spine. Something told her this man would not be as easily got around as Chambers. She did not like where this talk was going. Having to attend Detention for real would be a pain. Teachers never seemed to realise that the students had lives outside of their schoolwork.

"No, anyone who suffers under the new arrangements will have fair warning beforehand of the consequences of their actions."

There were muted gasps from several of the girls, including Barbara, when he lifted the cane from under his arm. Half hidden by the folds of his gown it had been easy to miss, especially when he stood facing them.

"You should know that the Board of Governors has approved the reintroduction of corporal punishment here at Grange."

He paused to let the enormity of this announcement sink in. Stacy kept her own expression calm but she could see worried uncertain looks being exchanged around her.

"Can he do that?" Barbara whispered. "I thought it was banned or something."

Stacy wondered the same thing. She began to relax. The school would never run the risk of breaking the law. Why any teacher who tried it might be arrested. Then she vaguely recalled something about the rules being different for state-run schools. Fee-paying schools like Grange operated under different regulations. Her earlier look of concern began to creep back over her face.

From the pocket of his jacket the new Headmaster took out some sort of shoe. He held it up so that they could all see it. On closer examination Stacy reassessed her earlier judgement. Not a shoe, more like a plimsoll used at gym class."

"What we have here is a traditional school slipper," he went on. "And as we speak one just like this is being given out to each of your teachers. Accompanying the slipper is instructions to apply it to the bottom of any girl who is found to be in breach of minor school rules. Inattention in class, tardiness, things like this will find you bending over in front of your classmates and having the slipper firmly applied to your bottom."

There were more gasps from the assembled girls but he was not finished. He tucked the slipper back into his pocket then held out the cane. Once he was certain he had everyone's attentions he swung it through the air in a few practice strokes. The loud ominous SWISH noise it made sent a cold shiver running down Stacy's back.

"For more serious offences a girl will be sent to my office. There she will receive the time-honoured attention of the cane applied to her seat of learning."

If that was meant to be a joke no one laughed. Stacy found herself unable to take her eyes off that cane. It looked thin and flexible with a crook handle but she had no wish to find out what it would feel like across her bottom.

"Denise Raff," he called out after the silence had become uncomfortable and Stacy saw the new girl shiver ever so slightly.

"Sir?" she croaked.

"Why don't you join me up here," he said with a tone that made it clear it was not a request. Even before this Denise could move, the students nearest her were shuffling away to put more distance between themselves and the girl. The girl swallowed, then obediently took the steps up to the stage where the Head was waiting for her.

"Now then Miss Raff, I have to say I am most impressed. You are here just one day so far and you decided that it would be fun to let all the air out of a teacher's car. And not just any teacher's car, but mine."

"Sir... I didn't," she stammered. "I don't know...."

"You had the bad fortune that I was looking out of the staff common-room window at the time. I saw the whole thing."

Stacy saw the protests drain away from this girl. So it had been her. Everyone had been wondering who had pulled that little stunt. Now they had the answer.

"Due to your conduct I have decided that even though you are new you are going to assist me in a little demonstration." With the cane the Head pointed to the chair that stood unoccupied.

"Demonstration Sir?" the girl mumbled. She looked tense enough to fall over but Stacy could not blame her. She had a terrible feeling she knew where this was heading.

"Yes Raff. Most if not all of these girls have never seen what a cane can do to a naughty bottom. I have no intention of letting any of them stumble into a caning without knowing full well what they have let themselves in for."

His tone hardened as he gestured to the back of the chair again. "Now go to the chair and bend over to grip the front legs of the chair.

The girl looked from the chair to the group of gathered students and then back to the Head.

© LSF Publications
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