Story from Roue 03.
Home from Home
Lucy had been taken away from home now, and was living with him, so now there would be four. He sat up at the attic window, looking out over the late autumn colours, seeing beyond the almost leafless branches the white walls and red tiles of Fairleigh. Twice a week, so Lucy had said. And now there were four. The sky looked heavy, and sodden with rain. The white walls were luminous against the overcast. So that would mean eight. Eight times a week, on average, now that there were four. The rain began to patter, quietly at first, then more insistently, trickling down the small glass panes and distorting the distant image. So that would mean that tonight, perhaps even right now, the probability existed that one of the four might — might be —. Statistically speaking, that was.
He filled his pipe from his pouch. The rain trickled down the glass. The rain might have been tears. The tears might have been Amy's, or Susan's, or one of the other two, that plumpish girl, what was her name? Or the other one, the dark haired girl. The pretty one. And it might be right now.
The pipe remained unlit. The realisation came, that he would have to go there. Perhaps tomorrow, or the next day. But he would have to go.
* * * *
'Evening.' He looked surprised, Mr Hawkins. His waistcoat was undone, his hair untidy, his eyes had a rheumy glaze to them in the afternoon light. He waited, suspiciously.
'I was just passing.' The lie plopped unconvincingly into the space between them. Ossie stood patiently on the step, the red-polished stones uneven under his feet.
'I see.' Clearly he didn't see. His wariness was a tangible thing. 'D'you want to come in?'
'Well, if I may.'
Mr Hawkins stepped to one side, saying no more. Ossie wiped his feet self-consciously on the mat, then followed the spare figure through the gloom of the hall.
The kitchen was warm. Pots simmered on the vast cooking range.
'Smells good,' said Ossie.
'Sit down,' said Hawkins.
They sat opposite each other, across the width of the scrubbed whitewood table. Hawkins' eyes never once left Ossie's.
'How c'n I help you?' he said at last.
'It's really only a social call,' said Ossie. He watched the disbelief harden in the other man's stare. 'Well, business too, I suppose.'
'What kind of business?'
Ossie felt uncomfortable. He'd never lied well. 'I was wondering whether we'd be seeing any of your charges at church in the near future. I notice they've not come of late.'
Hawkins' eyes flickered. 'Didn't think it a good idea. Too many busybodies around here. Poking their noses into other people's business.'
Ossie took the hint.
'You come about Lucy?' asked Hawkins. It worried him, that was plain.
'No, not really. Why?'
'Then what have you come for? To tell me you're goin' to make trouble? You're a fine one, you are. Letting a girl of her age live with you like that.'
'People are talking.'
Ossie could imagine. 'My housekeeper lives in. You know that perfectly well.'
'Yes. People wonder about that, too.'
Ossie could see he was getting nowhere. 'Well, I haven't come to make trouble, as you put it. As a matter of fact, I intend to take no action regarding the matter.'
Hawkins' eyes looked more shifty than ever. He couldn't think of anything to say.
'Lucy will continue to live with me,' said Ossie. He watched Hawkins closely. 'And as for you, well you can continue to live as you choose.'
'How d'you mean, live as I choose?'
'I mean that although I did express certain opinions as to your methods of running this establishment, I've decided that, well, perhaps it's your business alone. Perhaps I was a little hasty.'
Hawkins watched him for a long, empty moment. He wasn't taken in.
'What's the price?'
'What's your price? People like you don't do favours for people like me. What d'you want from me for keepin' quiet?'
Funny. Ossie had thought it would have been much more difficult, but here was this man just asking him what he wanted. No beating about the bush, just 'what d'you want?' He screwed up his nerve and forced himself to come out with it in a business-like, man-to-man way.
'I understand from Lucy that it wasn't just her who — who was punished.'
'What's that lying little bitch been saying?' growled Hawkins.
'Nothing. Simply that the others who live here are also — um — caned. From time to time.'
Hawkins' eyes drilled relentlessly into Ossie's. His voice was a rasp. 'So? Maybe they are, and maybe not. What's that to you?'
Ossie focused on the bridge of Hawkins' nose, not quite meeting his stare. He squeezed the last, transparent truth out from between his lips before his nerve failed him. 'I'd be interested to see how it was done, that's all.'
Ossie watched the slow smile spread lop-sidedly across the other man's face.
'I see,' said Hawkins, the irony heavy in his mocking tone. 'So our local do-gooder has a taste for it, eh?' He leaned aggressively forward, his elbows sharp against the table. His voice was a lewd, obscene simpering. 'And how would you like to see 'em, eh? Like to see 'em wriggling, would you? Like to watch 'em squirm, eh?'
Ossie found he couldn't speak. He had simply to listen. Hawkins' mocking voice whined on.
'Oh, they squirm, y'know. Their little bums twitch and wriggle like ferrets in a sack. Did you know that?'
Ossie found his voice at last.
'Is it a deal?' he asked hoarsely.
Hawkins laughed. 'Yes. It's a deal.'
'And I can come, say, a couple of times a week?'
'Got a big appetite, haven't you, for a bloke who found it "loathesome" a week or two ago?'
Ossie ignored him as best he could. 'When shall I come?'
Hawkins smiled, and made a big-hearted gesture. 'Come when you like. Tomorrow? 'Bout seven?'
'Yes, all right. I'll come tomorrow.'
'Right then. I'll tell the wife to expect you.' Hawkins looked suddenly very cheerful.
'No. I'd rather you didn't. I don't want any fuss on my behalf.'
Hawkins grinned. 'Suit yourself.'
Ossie stood up, the chair grating on the tiled floor. 'I'd better be getting back now then.'
He turned and went out into the long hall. Hawkins followed him. At the door Ossie turned back and spoke quietly to him.
'Look, if it could possibly be arranged, I'd rather the girls didn't know that — that I was there. I mean, just at this stage.'
Hawkins nodded, the smile still on his lips. 'I'll see what I can do. But I can't promise, see?'
'O.K.' Ossie twisted the latch of the door, opened it, then turned back again. 'Which one will it be?'
'I mean which of the girls will you be punishing tomorrow, when I come?'
Hawkins considered for only a moment. 'Annie,' he said, 'More'n likely.'
'I see. And what's she to be punished for?'
Hawkins laughed again. 'How should I know. She hasn't done it yet!'
* * * *
Ossie arrived at seven.
' 'Bin waitin'!' said Hawkins.
'Sorry. I thought we said seven o'clock.'
'Don't matter. It's Annie's 'bin wettin' 'er knickers, not me.'
'Oh dear. Poor girl.'
Hawkins led the way round the back of the house and down through the garden in the darkness. 'You're a funny bloke,' he said. 'Can't wait ter see the little tart get 'er arse whipped, then you get all sympathetic 'cause she's bin kept waitin' for it.'
The garden seemed endless. They stopped beside the shed. Something flapped almost in Ossie's face. 'Pigeons,' said Hawkins.
They went through a double door of wire mesh. The birds cooed and rustled in the dark.
' 'Ere y'are.' Hawkins showed him a roughly rectangular opening in the wooden wall. Ossie looked through, seeing the other half of the shed illuminated by a single hurricane lamp.
'That's my workshop.'
'I see. Do you — I mean, do the girls always get punished in there?'
'Nope. This is specially f'your benefit.' He laughed, coarsely. 'Be a bit cold for 'em in there, in the winter, see? Wiv out their little knickers!'
'Yes, I suppose so.'
'I'll go an' fetch 'er then.'
Hawkins went out through the wire mesh doors and back up the path. Ossie waited, his mouth seeming unusually dry. He heard them coming down through the garden. They passed within a few feet of him. Ossie heard the girl's breathing, short and sharp, as if she'd been crying, Hawkins' heavy tread following resolutely behind. He stood back from the bright opening, not wanting to be seen. The girl came precipitatedly through the door, as if propelled from the rear. Her face was flushed, the cheeks rosy, her eyes looking tearful and puffy.
Hawkins latched the door behind him. Ossie saw the wicked length of the supple cane he carried. The girl started to weep.
'Shut up,' said Hawkins. 'I ain't touched yer yet.'
Her voice sounded timid, trembling with anxiety. 'Mr Hawkins, I haven't done anything, honestly! I don't need whipping again, honest I don't.'
Ossie couldn't see her face now. From the back she looked even more attractive than he'd remembered.
'Get across there.'
Ossie's stomach fluttered. Annie protested, Hawkins took hold of her arm and thrust her face down across the littered work-bench.
'Mr Hawkins, please! I'll do it, you know I will. You don't have to whip me!'
The cane swished and splatted viciously across the backs of her thighs. She squealed desperately and tried to struggle away from his grasp.
Her short yellow dress fluttered up across her back. She twisted away to her right, the cane slashed hard across the plump swell of her white cotton knickers. Ossie could see the twitch and pinch of her buttocks under the thin material. Her sobbing, choking cry sounded pathetic and helpless in the still night.
'Let's 'ave these off yer then,' muttered Hawkins. His rough hands clawed at the knickers, Annie clamped her thighs together and tried to hang on to them with her free hand. Something ripped, her pale, bouncing cheeks appeared above the tight cling of the elastic waistband, the knickers slithered to the floor.
Ossie, shocked, saw that the lower part of her bared bottom was already crossed and recrossed by a tracery of pale, mauvish lines, concentrated in darker, bruised splotches up under the swell of her buttocks. Frantically she tried to squirm her helpless bottom away, out of reach, but the sibilant swish caught her full and square across the crown of one cheek. The flesh juddered under the impact. Her breath heaved into her chest. The cane landed again before she'd drawn breath enough for the first, pathetic yell.
Hawkins held her without apparent effort, and caned her wriggling backside with vicious enjoyment, his face twisted into a grinning leer as he whacked repeatedly at Annie's struggling buttocks. The wretched girl writhed her hips violently from one side to the other, but always the singing, smacking cane caught her. She yelped, sobbed and finally blubbered, and all the while she gasped pleas and promises, kicked her legs, and squirmed her naked belly in the sawdust and debris scattered across the bench. Her buttocks flamed in dozens of scarlet weals, and quivered unceasingly as the muscles flinched and tightened and clenched pathetically together.
Ossie's face was a tight mask, his mind a turmoil, his eyes fixed upon the spectacle in an unblinking stare.
The cane clattered noisly to the boarded floor. Hawkins stood back, while Annie still wriggled weepingly face down on the bench.
'I'll be good!' she whimpered with every other gasping breath, 'I'll be a good girl! I will, I will!'
Her whipped and tender bottom trembled fitfully as she clasped hopelessly at her ridged and reddened cheeks, yet seemingly dared make no move to get up.
'Yer'll be a good girl then will yer?' grunted Hawkins.
'Yes, oh, yes, yes. I'll do anything, only please Mr Hawkins, don't cane me no more!'
Mutely, matter-of-factly, trying to demonstrate her willingness, Annie pushed with her toes so that she was further up onto the bench and then spread her legs apart, her thighs parting wider and wider. So eloquent was the silent helplessness of the gesture that Ossie's breath caught in his throat. He saw Hawkins glance warily towards his hiding place, his face clouding. Then, with a hefty smack which cracked painfully down on the inside of one spreadeagled thigh, he growled at the half-naked girl.
'And we'll 'have none of your larks you little tart,' he said, and Annie, surprise in her face, stared round at him and stuttered in her confusion.
'B-but I th-thought...'
'Shut up!' Another smack stung the inside of her thigh and she snatched her legs together with a startled squeal. 'Now get back up to the 'ouse afore I give y'another dose!'
Annie scrambled down from the bench, her dress descending and covering the tender fireyness of her bum cheeks, and she scuttled past Hawkins to the door, bolting through it and scampering up the path. Ossie heard her sobbing breaths as she passed within a few feet of him. A great sigh escaped his own lips, as if of tension at once released. He found himself shaking, his hands still trembling as Hawkins let him out of the side gate and grunted a barely civil goodnight to him.
* * * *
Lucy was downstairs somewhere, he could hear her clattering a broom against some unprotected woodwork. Mrs Pope, his housekeeper, was away visiting her sister, and wouldn't be back until late.
Ossie stared out of the upstairs window and watched the thin haze of smoke curling up from the distant chimneys of Fairleigh. The recollection of Annie's caning, of Hawkins' awkwardness as the wretched girl had meekly offered herself to him in the way that she'd obviously been taught, set the familiar train of thought working again. If Annie 'knew what she was there for', then, perhaps Lucy too had been one of Hawkins' conquests. It certainly left room for speculation.
He crossed the room to the cupboard up against the wall and opened it, taking out the smooth, supple cane which Hawkins had sent over, unasked. Amy, the girl who had brought it wrapped superficially in a single sheet of brown paper, had stared wide-eyed at him as she'd stood nervously in his porch and offered it up to him with both hands. As soon as he'd taken it in his own hands he'd known what it must be. Now, he slipped it silkily across his palm, and then smacked it smartly down the length of his thigh. The smart nipped quite sharply and he winced as he felt the twinge. The picture of poor Annie's naked and squirming bum floated before his eyes, and he tried to translate the discomfort in his leg into terms of what it must have felt like to Annie as the cane had whacked again and again across her already punished cheeks. His imagination failed to give him more than an inkling of what she must have suffered.
He put the cane away again, unwilling to commit himself to its use. At least not yet. He cast around in his mind for something suitable, and thought of the thick leather strap around the big suitcase in the boxroom. He went up and threaded it out through the loops and came back downstairs, giving it a couple of smacks across his hand on the way. It stung quite smartly, a couple of dozen strokes ought to make a nice impression on a girl's bottom.
Lucy heard him coming down into the hall and the broom stopped its clattering. She stood self-consciously and eyed the strap with a look of nervous understanding that made the thrill leap inside him. She already knew she was to be punished. Now she knew how.
'Now then Lucy...'
She preceded him to the study, glancing back once as she went, her short yellow dress, the uniform dress she'd been wearing when she'd first arrived, the same kind of dress young Annie had been wearing when... the dress pleated and tucked halfway up the backs of her young thighs, its looseness somehow emphasising the neat, plump girlishness underneath.
Ossie stood before the window and laid the strap carefully over the back of a chair beside him.
'You know why you're here...' he began.
Lucy nodded, her head lowered, eyes downcast, her breasts pushing against the soft rutched folds of her dress.
'But first, I'd like you to tell me something.' He paused, her eyes looked up into his, questioning.
'I'd like to know — and you can be completely honest with me now Lucy — I'd like to know if, while you were at Fairleigh, anything — well, if anything unusual, of a personal nature I mean, happened.'
Her eyes seemed not to understand.
'Between you and Mr Hawkins I mean.'
And now she seemed to get his meaning.
She nodded slowly. Then she looked at the strap, at Ossie's hands, at the one in his pocket, playing with loose coins.
'I'll do it f'you too,' she mumbled, her voice eager to please, though thin with nervousness.
'No, I didn't...'
She pulled her dress up slowly anyway. The soft satin of her bare thighs gleamed faintly in the light from the window, the white cotton knickers cupping sweetly under the soft thrust of her mound, her tummy sloped smoothly down under the waistband of her knickers.
Ossie let her do it, the simplicity of her willingness quite breathtaking. Her knickers slipped down her tight belly, her navel winked demurely, a wisp of dark hair appeared at the apex of her thighs.
'No, I don't mean I want you to — to do that. It was simply a question that's all.'
'B-but you don't have to strap me, do you?' she asked quietly, 'I mean, I know I have to be punished, but...' she inched her knickers down a fraction more, and her eyes said the rest.
'Now Lucy, we'll have none of that in this house!' He was quite startled by her brazenness.
'But Mr Hawkins used t'let us off a whacking sometimes, if we...'
'That's enough Lucy!'
'...if we let 'im 'have us, nice an' obedient like, an' didn't make no fuss about...'
The girl stopped but the faintest, slowest gyration of her hips showed that she hadn't given up hope of averting the imminent punishment yet.
Ossie was suddenly angry with her, angry that she should dare to try to bribe him so lasciviously, and angry that she'd so nearly succeeded. Beside his foot was a low stool. He shoved it towards her with his foot.
'Turn round,' he demanded.
Lucy turned, but peered back over her shoulder.
'Now get across that stool.'
She lifted her dress at the back. Her knickers cut across the lower part of her two full checks, neither quite down nor up, her bum cheeks pinkly succulent and pouting prettily. Unasked she slid her knickers partway down her thighs.
'Which way up d'you want me,' she asked, her voice low yet with a hint of impudence.
Ossie cracked the strap briskly across her bare thighs, she yelped, and hopped away a little to one side.
'The right way up for a good hiding!' he said. 'For the whacking you obviously deserve, you impudent wretch!'
She knelt on the stool, the marks on her thighs blossoming a bright crimson. Then she arranged herself properly, tummy across the top of the stool, legs out straight, bottom raised slightly and offering itself as a tempting target. She was obviously well aware of what was required of her.
He thrashed her soundly, her naked cheeks soaking up the sharp, stinging whacks, her hips bouncing as she squealled lustily. When he'd finished he parked her, still weeping, in a convenient corner and paced up and down the room trying to get his sudden need for her under control. This time he'd won, but what about next time. He peered out of the downstairs window, ignoring her quiet sobbing as best he could, seeing the thin smudge of smoke about the trees which all but hid the red tiles of Fairleigh. And for the first time he began to have a little sympathy for Hawkin's predicament.