The twins pressed themselves against the wall of the corridor outside the Prefects' Common Room as the Head Girl and the Head of House mounted the stairs and strode purposefully down the hallway towards them. The butterflies in their stomachs somersaulted: how they now regretted that foolish bit of bravado earlier in the afternoon.
The girls had been expelled from St Mary's for their persistent bad behaviour, their parents hoping that the stricter regime at Bexhill would bring them into line. It seemed a forlorn hope.
That afternoon, the first really hot, sunny one of the summer, the girls had looked at each other, eyes sparkling with mischief.
"Let's shirk games, it's too hot."
"Good idea, let's go for a swim instead."
"And a sun-tan."
They giggled together, made their way to the pool and stripped off. They'd been there less than haf-an-hour when the Head Girl appeared and blew a fuse. The twins were ordered to report to the Prefects' Common Room after supper. They both knew what that meant.
The two senior prefects swept into the Common Room with scarcely a glance at the twins. The door was closed. A few moments later, the twins heard the scraping of furniture and shorrtly afterwards the door was opened again and they were curtly summoned inside. Emma squeezed her sister's hand.
"Good luck, be brave!"
Samantha gave her sibling a bleak smile in response.
Samantha was dealt with first. Bending over and grasping her ankles, she managed to take six fierce strokes from the Head Girl without flinching. The Prefect was impressed.
"Stand over there with your hands on your head." Samantha positioned herself so that, in a mirror, she could see what was happening to her sister.
The Head Girl indicated to her colleague, the Captain of the House, that she should now punish Emma. The twin was told to lower her knickers and bend down. The House Captain swished her cane twice, measured the rattan across Emma's bottom, and lashed it down with the ferocity for which she was infamous. Emma yelped at the burning sting, but managed to stay in place until the fifth stroke. It landed right on top of the purple ridge left by the previous lash. Emma took off, leaping up and clutching her bottom.
"Two extra!" The Head of House announced, unsmiling. Emma slowly bent down again.
When it was over and Emma was allowed to stand, she fingered the raised stripes on her cheek with the tip of her fingers, trying to soothe the blazing welts.
"Pull up your knickers and go to your room. Let that be a lesson to you both." The Head Girl's frown would have frozen Hell.
But it was not the last time she'd be forced to stripe the twin's identical backsides.
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