I’ve come to realize that life is full of choices that are simultaneously wrong and right. My father called these moments the choosing of the lesser of evils. For him it was typically about elections, selecting the politician who was the less dishonest, the one who was less bribed by the lobbied interest of the creme de la creme of society. Of course there was no true evil in those choices. The men and women who choose a life in public service may not always make the best judgments, stand behind the best policies, but I doubt any of them ever desire the annihilation of our society, of our way of life. They promote that which they believe is the best course for the future and sometimes their beliefs are right and sometimes their beliefs are wrong. That’s the truth which is too often ignored. Right and wrong are not often choices between good and evil, but rather a course followed because of what we believe.
Jocelyn believed it was wrong to withhold a meal just because someone broke a rule. I was inclined to agree, but the leadership of Rosecliff had the opposite view. What was right to us was wrong to them and viceversa. In making these kinds of choices we reveal not only what we believe, but the fiber of our character. And that’s because not everyone will stand up for what they believe. In a place like Rosecliff, I didn’t expect to find many who would have the backbone. After all, the choice which landed me within their walls was made in complete opposition of everything I believed. The fiber of my character was more flexible than I cared to admit.
Natalie, our roommate, was spanked at breakfast. Mr. Boggs did the deed with the medium lexan paddle, on the stage, in clear view of the entirety of Rosecliff’s assembled students, teachers and staff. The swats were hard. Eye-clenching. Ear-wrenching. Back-shuddering. I felt them in my bones. Natalie’s trembling voice echoed in the cafeteria as she counted the swats. I watched the event, not because I desired to increase her shame, her embarrassment, but rather because I wanted to lend her strength and courage. As it drew to an end I wondered if this was why the administration chose to so often spank in the cafeteria. Did sharing in the experience, punish us all? Did it make us more or less likely to take up that place on center-stage?
In that moment, I began to understand that the inevitability of spankings at Rosecliff was not so much a factor of the strict rules as it was a matter of my own resolve to retain something of who I was before I came through the gates. I think all the girls of Rosecliff shared in this flaw and it was only toward the end of their stay that any learned-- realized, that they no longer wanted or needed to be the person they once were.
Jocelyn saved a strip of bacon and half her biscuit, slipping it inside the front V of her jumper. The folds of fabric hid the bulge well enough that only a thorough inspection would note its presence. I tossed aside my fears of getting caught and ending up like Natalie or worse and copied my new friend. Her heart was in the right place and it was time I started making a stand for the things in which I believed.
After breakfast, we rendezvoused with Natalie in an unoccupied corner of the hallway just off the main course toward the classrooms. Natalie hugged us both before wolfing down the food. A few girls cast us curious glances at they walked by, but we were careful. Nothing was obvious and the passersby most likely thought we were consoling our roommate. And in a way, that was true. Food can be a great a comfort when you weren’t supposed to get any.
Everything went according to plan until I was sitting in Mrs. Rosecliff’s classroom and the Dean’s assistant walked in the door without so much as a knock. She whispered in Mrs. Rosecliff’s ear. They both turned and looked at me.
Mrs. Rosecliff said, “Margaret, the Dean will see you in his office immediately.”
I actually smiled. Getting caught doing what I thought was the right thing, wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. At least I had a reason and just maybe, someone might listen before bending me over for my second spanking since arriving. I rose to my feet. “Yes, Mrs. Rosecliff.”