by Paul Jackson
Susan and Phil had moved to Kingston upon Thames five years ago, shortly after Phil, who was Susan's second husband, had been promoted. Phil worked as a senior finance director for a European insurance company and the family had bought a luxurious five bedroom detached house set in a quiet private road located to the south of the suburb.
After the turmoil of Susan's first marriage, life, at last, was good. With Phil being in the high salary bracket, she hardly needed to work long hours. Just four hours a day in a solicitor's office, from 8am to 12pm, kept her ticking over. She loved her work and got on well with her boss, Maurice Ritchie, who often spent golfing weekends with Phil.
Phil provided everything that her first husband had not, giving love and stability, and importantly, fatherhood to Susan's daughter, Karris, who had been just six when they'd married. They had been together for ten years now and had two other lovely children, along with Karris.
Phil and Karris adored each other. Their move to Kingston upon Thames had been planned at a time to coincide with Karris' move up to secondary school. Although they could afford private education, they had decided to enrol Karris at the local grammar school. She had always been academically gifted, and Kings Hill Grammar had a 98% pass rate at five GCSEs, Grade 'A*' to 'C' or more, so why send her to one of the two local private schools? She loved the school and her parents were more than happy with it.
Karris was a lovely girl: bright, accomplishing, vivacious, and universally popular with her peers, and Susan, as her mother, was immensely proud. Physically, Karris was strikingly beautiful, having inherited her biological father's dusky good looks. She possessed the most lush, long, chestnut hair, dark olive skin, high cheekbones, and Susan's ex's lovely blue eyes. She had continued to be a high achiever and her subject tutors and departmental heads could not have given her better appraisals and projections. She was a talented violinist and part of the school's widely acclaimed orchestra, as well as being at the forefront of the school's stage productions. But it's her brilliance as an actress that thrilled her parents the most. As a little girl she had been quite the actress and often used it to her advantage.
With Susan working part-time, Karris spent her school lunch breaks at home with her mother. It was nice for the two of them to have that hour alone together, just mother and daughter.
As has been said, she loved the school and enjoyed a good working relationship with the teachers. It was, then, a little surprising when Karris came home from school at lunchtime last Wednesday, a tad quieter than usual. On this day she came into the kitchen, biting her lip, clearly wanting to tell her mother something. She hung her blazer up and took a sip from a cup of coffee. She came straight to the point...
"Mum, I'm going to be caned."
"I beg your pardon?!" Susan gasped, crashing down her coffee cup. "I mean, what the..."
Karris swiftly handed her a letter from the school. Susan was simply astounded! What caring, loving parent wouldn't be? Phil and Susan were aware that Kings Hill Grammar employed corporal punishment as a last resort. They also knew that girls were not exempt. The guidelines issued to schools by the LEA said the issue of corporal punishment for girls was at the discretion of the head of the school.
"Why in heaven?" Susan asked incredulously, her mouth dropping, and momentarily forgetting the letter.
"Well," said, Karris, pensively, "it's from what I told you last week about the mess relating to questions on the American civil war on our GCSE history mock."
"Yes, but I thought the history department were working to resolve that issue, according to the letter the department sent here to Phil and me last week! They seemed apologetic and were striving to put things right."
Susan was getting a little flustered, and reached for her mobile phone to call the school.
"Em, well, yeah," hesitated Karris, eyeing her mother's phone as she began to search for the number. "But, like, I had a run-in with the head of history on Monday. You know, 'Ma Miller.' It sort of got heated, and, well," she continued, waving her hands about, "I lost it, Mum. I let myself get so ape mad. I told Ma Miller that her ability to run a history department in such a school as ours was questionable and that her decision making was poor. Mum, Ma Miller is too old and dotty to run the history department! As I left her office, I called her a cow under my breath, to which she called me back and issued a formal reprimand on my file."
Susan was taken aback. She crashed her phone down on the dining table. This was most unlike Karris.
"Karris!" Susan protested. "I mean, what on earth was this further disagreement about? It was being resolved, wasn't it? I mean, for goodness sake! We don't want this in your GCSE year!"
"Aww, Mum! It's not just me! Ma Miller has really messed up our prep, big time, for the GCSE history exam! Lots of students are unhappy, but I guess I let my feelings rip! Being on the student council, I felt I had to make a stand, Mum!"
"Okay! Okay!" Susan reasoned with her daughter. "But how? What has Ma Miller done?"
Karris brushed her hair back, then cupped her hands around the coffee mug.
"It was about the American civil war, again. She told us all that we need not focus on the Battle of Amelia of April 5th 1865 for the mocks, as there will be no questions on it. Then, as you know, when we sat the mocks, there was a whole section on the battle that asked us about the Appomattox campaign and how Amelia acted as a prelude to Saylers Greek! There were four questions on Amelia, which I had not prepared for. How could Ma Miller get this so wrong, Mum? When I spoke with her Monday she seemed dottier then ever!"
Karris paused as Susan sat there speechless. Worryingly, her body language told Susan there was something more to this.
"So, why the cane, Karris? The school would not use the cane over a heated row? Detention or a further reprimand, maybe..."
"I'm not trying to conceal anything from you, Mum. I felt as chair of the student council I had to act," she sighed. "I realise now that I was wrong and it was an overreaction, but I kind of said things about Ma Miller's inability on Facebook yesterday. I admit I said some rude and inappropriate things that have affected the reputation of the school."
"Oh, my God!" Susan gasped in shock. "Surely not?"
"Yep! I know! I know! I was wrong! I lost the plot! I put rude comments on Facebook and on our own student blog. I know you must be mad with me!" She sipped her coffee. "I think the head of year or the deputy headmaster is going to ring you about it later. I don't want to repeat what I said online, Mum."
"I see! I'm shocked, Karris, I really am! I really don't know what to say or do!"
"I was called to Ma Miller's office this morning and I'm going to be caned for the online comments and my inappropriate behaviour. I can only say sorry and accept that I deserve it."
Susan gave a sigh. She had to admit Karris could be self-opinionated and outspoken sometimes. But at least she had the conviction to admit she was wrong. As parents, they had rarely been forced to discipline her. There'd be the odd little telling off or two.
Susan did not intend to pick up her phone again in order to go ranting and screaming at her daughter's school with a verbal barrage like, 'If you dare touch my daughter, I will do such and such.' Karris and her mother calmly sat down together and spoke philosophically. Susan concluded that on this occasion she was quite wrong and some form of retribution was called for. You cannot get away with such behaviour in adult life, especially in the workplace, so to learn now would be beneficial to Karris. A couple of moderate, salutary strokes of the cane on the palm of her hand wouldn't do her any harm, and given that, Susan was not about to get on her high horse. When Kings Hill Grammar had re-introduced corporal punishment, Phil and Susan had never reached for the telephone to complain. Neither had they started looking for another school. They had accepted it, and so had their daughter at the time, and to her credit, she now accepted that she was going to be caned for her behaviour. This was just a silly, frustrated outburst that she needed to learn from, and Susan was proud that Karris had accepted that. They discussed the matter calmly during their lunch together.
Karris sighed. "So, I will be home just a few minutes later than usual after school."
Susan looked up, not quite registering.
"Errr, like, they are going to do it today! Cane me, after school, at 3.30pm."
Susan hesitated before saying, "I, err, who is, I mean, by whom...?"
"Ma Miller is going to do it. I've got to report to Ma's office at three-thirty. At this morning's meeting she said my behaviour was, regrettably, a caning offence. That's all I know," Karris said, taking a mouthful of sandwich.
"But, I mean, what's the amount?" Susan assumed one stroke, maybe two, at most.
"Not sure. Like, just two of the boys got it from Mr Robb before he retired as headmaster last term. They joked that it was a bit of laugh from old Mr Robb, to be honest!" she giggled. "As far as I know, the new headmaster, Mr Boyce, has not caned any of the boys. And, like, well, just one girl, Danielle May, got it in year ten. She said it wasn't much, just a couple on her hand from Ma Miller. Think she said they were light ones that never hurt that much. So nothing to worry about."
Susan exhaled as her inner emotions played havoc. She didn't want her daughter to be caned, but it seemed the most favourable option under the circumstances. She concluded that it could have been far worse, like suspension from school in her GCSE year. That would have been a disaster. Karris agreed.
"It would be too awful getting suspended! At least this will be over in a minute or so, and from what Danielle May said it's better than getting a detention! I've never had a detention before, but the students say sitting for a whole hour in a classroom copying from a book is no joke!"
Susan read the letter that Karris had brought home. It was from Miss Miller, outlining the incident, along with a parental consent form to use corporal punishment, which is a mandatory regulation set out by the LEA. In view of her daughter's surprising and most unprecedented behaviour, and her feeling that she trusted Kings Hill Grammar School to hand out a light, reasonable dose of the cane to Karris, fitting of the offence she had committed, she signed. The letter from Miss Miller stated how disappointed she was that Karris had blemished what was an excellent, untarnished disciplinary record and concluded that she hoped the school and the student could move on from it.
"Time to go back," Karris said with a sigh. She stood, brushing just a few crumbs of bread from her green and grey plaid skirt and then straightening the hem of her white blouse that was worn outside her skirt, a skirt Susan considered way too short for school.
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