(Sorry, this is a re-post. There was a glitch that had to be cleaned up in the first go-round).
Bethany glided along the walk toward the administration building. That’s how she felt-glideful-if there was such a word. If not, light and breezy would suffice. “Ooops, Sorry!” she said tripping out of the way of two freshman hustling to class. Glideful-not graceful. She smiled and regarded the youngsters in their rush-heads down, books clutched to their chests. She remembered that feeling-that fear of being late-of missing the last assignment. Happily that was behind her by a few years.
It was less than a month until final commencement and most of her tough work was finished properly and behind her. Most; not all. She was holding the final two assignments now-past deadline enough that she had to turn them into the Assistant Dean as these professors had left for the semester. Her bad luck. Had they still been on campus she could have pushed the papers over the transom, as they say, and not have to meet the new AD. She had an 8:30 meeting for which she was, of course, late.
Really, why had Dean Jackson, her mentor, professor and confidant through her four years chosen this month to start his sabbatical? He’d be back for commencement surely, but she wished she was facing him this morning rather than this new AD. And a woman at that. She hadn’t seen her around campus yet but had seen her posted greeting on the campus Intraweb.
She slipped through the administration building’s open door as someone else exited and took the wide marble steps to the second floor two at a time. She was pressing for time not wanting to be too late for Professor Major’s History of Agriculture class. God! What a bore-but electives count on the transcript too. She opened the frosted glass door that still read “Assistant Dean Phillip Jackson” and stepped inside the AD’s outer office.
Amy Prynne, the new AD’s new assistant, looked up from the computer screen as she entered. Amy was an Academy Alumnus who had worked at a few postings across campus-primarily over in finance. A small woman with a silver pixie cut, she seemed pleasant enough but Bethany had never had a conversation with her. “Good Morning”, Amy said cheerily. “Bethany? Right?”
“Oh-yes”, Bethany said, taken off guard a bit that Amy knew her name. She hesitantly reached her had across the desk which Amy rose to shake once. “Flowers”, she said. “Nice to meet you.”
“Of course”, Amy agreed. “And you…I’m Amy…”
“Yes…I’ve seen you around.”
“Of course. Yes.”
Amy sat again and continued to look up at her with a wide smile that came and went then came back again. “Oh”, she said. “We had you down for 8:30…”
“Yes…I’m sorry. I was running a little behind this morning. Is that OK?” A few uncomfortable seconds passed while Amy consulted the computer in front of her. “Shouldn’t be a big problem.” She nodded toward the inner door. “Someone jumped in before you…Shouldn’t be too long.”
Bethany became conscious of voices coming from the inner office. “Oh-alright. I kind of thought I might just be able to leave these with you.” She held out the two final papers each in its properly addressed envelope. “I’m running a little late, you see. For Professor…”
“Yes, History of Agriculture. Really-I had that one. How do you stay awake?” she asked conspiratorially with an almost-wink. “Just have a seat-AD Smythe will see you in a moment.” She turned her full attention back to the screen clearly dismissing her. Bethany withdrew the proffered papers and sat-dismissed-on the worn leather sofa where she had idled so much time waiting to see AD Jackson who had served as her advisor for the first two years on campus.
With a nervous look at the clock on the wall-no way she was going to make the bell for Ag Hist-she reached for the new copy of Academy Life on the coffee table to leaf through.
Suddenly the inner door opened at there stood Assistant Dean Gwen Smythe. She looked younger than she did in the posted Intraweb picture. There she was wearing a proper blazer and a prim turtle neck. Here she had on an oxford blue shirt open at the neck and what looked to be dark slacks. The door wasn’t open wide enough for her to be sure. Her shoulder length blonde hair cupped her face in the photo but here was pulled back in a loose pony tail. “Amy?” she said to her assistant before noticing Bethany on the sofa. “Oh hello-you are…?”
“This is Bethany Flowers.”, said Amy moving past her into the office.
“Oh, of course, Bethany.” Her face froze toward a greeting smile, “You’re a little late this morning.”
“Yes Ma’am…I’m sorry. I….”
“No matter”, the AD waved at her. She appeared ready to say something else but then settled for “I’ll be with you in a moment….” As the door closed Bethany saw another girl standing in the office. She was facing away so she couldn’t tell who it was-just a flash of tartan and a white shirt. The informal, formal uniform. Had to be a freshman.
She sunk back into the leather cushions. Something was off, she thought. She was expecting a little “run-by-drop-off” informality but she was on everyone’s schedule it appeared. Had she been? Did she really set a time when she called? And not only on everyone’s schedule but late by everyone’s schedule. A few butterflies flittered about in her belly as a cool shadow inexplicitly fell over what had been an unseasonably and perhaps unreasonably pleasant morning.
She looked at the clock nervously then back to the magazine in her hand. She began to flip the pages when she heard it-quick and distinctive-from the inner office.
“Crack!” The sound startled her so that she dropped the magazine to the floor. “Crack!” came the second lick.
Oh dear God! She thought, jumping up. The butterflies doubled in number and size-flying through her chest now. Bethany had never been spanked at school. Not once in her four years at The Academy. She didn’t think that was so unusual. She was sure many girls got through without feeling the cane, or the paddle or even the firm hand on the backside but she didn’t know many that had her fear of it. When girls spoke of it, she left the room. The first and only time AD Jackson had mentioned corporal punishment in passing she had almost cried.
On the third swat from inside she heard a little cry and she grabbed at herself. She had to pee! She ran to the washroom behind the desk and realized that it was closer to the inner office and she could hear the sounds better from there. The fourth and fifth swats landed closer together and the answering cries got a bit louder. Then the sixth with a loud report and the poor girl on the receiving end broke into sobs. These were not the muffled swats made when a paddle hits skirts. No, this was the clear, sharp crack of wood meeting bare skin. She nervously turned on the water to muffle everything and sat on the toilet even knowing she really didn’t have to go.
Quite illogically she looked about for a window where she knew there wasn’t one. Then she thought about the door-out, make a left then out, then out back into the sunshine. More swats landed answered by cries and sobs all overlain by AD Smythe’s distinctive but indecipherable voice. Sitting there on the loo Bethany put her fingers in her ears, closed her eyes and hummed. She breathed to calm herself; tried to look at her situation rationally. Whatever was happening to that unfortunate freshman had nothing to do with her. She was weeks from graduating with honors. Just settle yourself, she thought.
After a few moments she looked up and popped her fingertips out of her ears. It had gone silent. She rose and turned off the water. The inner door-then the outer-opened then closed. She looked at her face completely flushed in the mirror and splashed a little water on her cheeks. She patted with a hand towel and stepped back into the waiting area.
Amy was back behind her desk with her wide smile. “Oh, there you are…We were afraid you’d run off!”
“No….no…I had to…”
“Of course, yes”, said Amy breezily. “Ms. Smythe will see you now.”
To be continued….