The shrill bellow of Mr. Oneal’s whistle captured every girl’s attention on the grass field. It was a relief for me, wearing not but white socks and athletic shoes, standing in front of the collected gathering of Tanzanite House for the morning exercise ritual. I suppose Ms. Watts felt much the same, standing on the opposite side of Mr. Oneal from me and wearing absolutely nothing. At Rosecliff, the only privacy a girl gets when naked, or nearly naked, is when something or someone else is drawing more attention. In this case, the attention was divided between Mr. Oneal and the relatively new girl, Emily Sargeant.
She arrived a little more than three months prior. 17 years old and convicted of theft. Her adjustment has been painfully slow. She considers herself a victim and has yet to accept responsibility for her situation. It’s not that unusual for new girls, I spent my first six months blaming every last one of my friends and family for my predicament. I doubt I’ll ever see any of those friends again and as for family, well I think they’ve mostly disowned me. My repeated letters of apology and admission of guilt as well acceptance of personal responsibility have all gone unanswered. But that’s the reality, apologies don’t undo the things we’ve done. Someday, Emily will understand too.
Mr. Oneal fixed his glare on her, freezing her in place only steps past the gate. “You’re late.”
She trembled. Her hands brushed at the blonde hair hanging around her shoulders. Tears glistened in her blue eyes. Her voice squeaked. “Less than a minute.”
He planted his hands on his hips. “Do you have an excuse or are you simply incapable of walking the hundred yards from Tanzanite House to the field in less than ten minutes?”
Tears bubbled out of her eyes. “I’m sorry.”
He snapped his fingers and pointed at the grass directly in front of his feet. “Get over here.” Not waiting for her to so much as blink, he turned and picked up his datapad from seat of the blue plastic chair behind him. He used his finger to punch in the relevant data while Emily slogged her way across the field. “Do you see Miss Abigail?” he snapped his fingers again and pointed at me.
Emily wiped tears from her cheeks and look in my direction. “Yes, Sir.”
He said, “You’re going to be her twin for the day. Face your housemates and strip down.”
More tears spilled and a sob racked her large chest. “Please, Sir.”
He snapped his fingers and pointed at the assemble mass of Tanzanite girls. All eyes were locked on Emily. Some found the situation amusing, others found it frightening and still others feared if they looked elsewhere they might have misfortune of joining Emily and myself in our starkly embarrassing uniform, if you can call socks and shoes a uniform. Three years had toughened my skin, but the humbling effect of being naked never quite diminished.
Emily turned toward the girls, though I doubt she really faced them. The sports bra, shorts and panties of her exercise kit were quickly yanked off and laid in a folded pile on the grass. Her crying continued to shake her entire body, wobbling her ample flesh. Naked, she stood there, shoulder slumped, head low and hair hanging in front of breasts, waiting.
Mr. Oneal unhooked the leather tawse from his belt and positioned himself to use it on Emily. “Back straight, hands on top of your head, elbows pointing left and right, feet shoulders width apart.”
“Yes, Sir.” Emily cried harder, but she obeyed his every command.
He tapped the tawse against her tense buttocks. “One way or another I’m going to whip you into shape, Emily. 24 now, you can have another 20 at lunch and skip the meal, I’m sure you can afford to, and then you will run an 8 minute mile for before dinner or you’ll receive another 20 at dinner and miss that meal as well. Is that understood, Emily?”
She sniffled loudly, attempting to hold back another wave of sobs. “Yes, Sir.”
He raised the tawse and slapped it hard across the center of her butt. Two red stripes instantly appeared. She yelped, wiggled her butt and counted the stroke aloud. He swung the tawse again, striking just below the first two stripes. Her legs kicked up like a soldier marching in place while she cried out. She counted the stroke. He brought the strap down over the original two stripes. She cried and counted. He kept swinging, alternating between middle and lower half of her butt while she kept crying, wriggling, kicking and counting. 24 strokes later, her butt glowed a hot, shiny red.
Then we all got our morning exercise.