I never liked history much at school, and by the time I was sixteen my lack of interest had turned to all-out rebellion. Things came to a head when I announced to the teacher that I could not see the relevance of an assignment he had set. He yelled at me in front of the class, and in my surprise and embarrassment I giggled, which made him angrier still. The story I am about to relate took place the following day.
The teacher announces he has a surprise for the class. Mr Rogers, a lecturer from the local university, will address us on the events leading up to the Second World War. Mr Rogers is about thirty-five, tall and blond, with an educated accent and a surprisingly feral look.
The teacher leaves the room and Mr Rogers begins. He talks and talks. It is obvious he is knowledgeable and eloquent and enjoys his subject, but I am not listening. Instead I am considering Mr Rogers' body - the curve of his back as he turns to the map, the definition of his arm muscles under the white rolled-up sleeves and the spicy scent of his sweat as he lifts the pointer. The pointer is a long bamboo cane. I wonder if it is one that is used to beat the boys, and shiver with horror and an odd excitement that makes me squeeze my legs together.
Suddenly Mr Rogers turns towards me. "Stand up, Miss Palmer. Tell the class what you know of the Moscow show trials."
He's got me there. "I was away that day," I say boldly.
"But Miss Palmer, I have spent the last five minutes discussing them. Clearly you have not been listening. Come out here." He points to a spot right in front of him.
We face each other about yard apart. I can smell his sweat, and am aware that he can probably smell mine. It is a hot day and I have taken off my jumper to reveal the regulation school blouse, which, due to a strange oversight on the part of the school board, is so thin my white bra is clearly visible underneath. The look in Mr Rogers' eyes is one I have seen before, but never during school hours.
"Your teacher has described to me the difficulty he has instilling even the basics of 20th century history into your tiny brain, Miss Palmer. I told him I knew a way to make girls learn, and he has asked me to come along today to demonstrate it. Bend over that chair." And he swishes the cane through the air with a sudden ferocity that makes me jump.
He can't be serious. Girls don't get the cane at this school. And the chair he indicates is facing the blackboard, which means the whole class will get an excellent view of my bottom. The classroom has gone deathly still. Like me, they can't believe this is happening.
I realise Mr Rogers is genuinely aggrieved at my disdain for a subject that is so dear to his heart, and is likely to hit me harder in consequence. But mainly, he is going to cane me simply because he wants to. He likes caning girls. To get through this I have to forget the grubby adolescent boys behind me who are no doubt avidly anticipating my punishment. This is between Mr Rogers and me, and it will take all my self-possession to get through it with my dignity intact.
I arrange myself with a confidence I do not feel over the back of the chair with my hands on the seat. My navy pleated skirt still covers my bottom in this position, but my hunched back is too submissive for my liking. So I arch it and stick my bottom out. This makes my skirt ride up higher exposing more of my bare legs and a flash of knicker, but the act of defiance is worth it.
Mr Rogers steps up and slashes the cane through the air behind me. He announces to the class that I am going to get six of the best for being insolent, lazy and showing a general lack of appreciation for my teachers' efforts to instruct me. He doesn't bother to say I should not move or cry out. We both know this is my part in this battle of wills, a battle we are both determined to win.
Slowly he lifts the hem of my skirt to my waist. Oh shit. I try to think what panties I put on this morning. What I remember does not make me happy. The only clean pair in the drawer this morning was my good pair from two years ago, long since outgrown. White, silky and much too tight - barely adequate to cover the few crucial inches between my legs, let alone my tightly stretched buttocks. And the bastard is nudging my feet further apart and coming round in front of me, demanding that I kiss the cane. Jesus, what has the kinky bastard been reading? As I comply I give him a look of pure hate.
So there I am, bent over with my legs spread and my fanny pointing straight at the boys in the front row - the rude, bad boys who were at the back until the teacher "promoted" them in the interests of their education.
Rogers lectures me a bit more and swishes the cane a few more times and then without warning lands the first stroke. Shit it hurts and it is all I can do to hold tight as the pain spreads and grows. He walks around for a while, pontificating on the Second World War.
"Are you listening, Miss Palmer?" he asks suddenly, rounding on me.
Oh god, what does he think? "Of course Sir," I answer sweetly.
So then he asks me a question, and of course I can't answer it.
That's it. The gloves are off. He lands two more, waiting just long enough between the strokes for my face to stop contorting and my breathing to settle, then two close together.
I yell and leap up holding my bum. "You evil bastard!"
With a look of triumph which makes me absolutely furious he grabs my arm and pushes me back down, and - horror of horrors - the next thing I feel is the cool air on my burning skin as he tugs my panties down to mid-thigh. There is an audible intake of breath from the front row. Whether my exposed genitals or the five livid cane marks burning across the cheeks of my arse are the more arresting sight is a matter of debate. Hoping to conceal my humiliating and quite involuntary sexual arousal I keep my legs as close together as I can.
Rogers makes a show of running the cane lingeringly over the throbbing welts. But soon he rouses himself. My punishment is far from over. "An extra two for that unconscionable act of insolence, Miss Palmer. Now thank me for taking such care over your punishment, and tell the class why you deserve it."
This is too much. I am dumb.
"Repeat after me: 'I am a bad, rude, disobedient girl and I deserve to be caned severely.'"
I won't say it, so he says it for me, in between strokes which come thick and fast - far more than the number he promised me. Tears squeeze from my eyes, my face is red, I stamp my feet and cry out with every stroke. But when at last I straighten up and turn to face him he is as wild and dishevelled as I am. Honour is satisfied.
My eyes do not leave his as I pull up my panties over a bottom which, because of its swollen state, they contain even less adequately than before. Then I turn on my heel and resume my seat. I sit down hard. You can't get the better of me, you bastard.