I leapt from sleep with my heart racing. I was sitting up in bed, sweat soaking my hair and nightshirt. All around me in the dark room the other girls were still peacefully asleep. As peaceful as sleep could get at the orphanage anyway. For a moment, I thought that I had come awake for nothing, that I would be allowed to lie back down in bed and escape the misery of everyday life at the girls' home in which I lived. It was not to be.
Someone was walking down the hallway.
No, not just someone, the Matron. I suppose the whip thin woman with the fierce expression must have had a name. At some time the woman must have been a little girl like myself and certainly her parents wouldn't have named her Matron. Matron had become the woman's name, however, for it was all we knew her as.
I would know the sound of that gait anywhere, even in my sleep.
I closed my eyes and tried to still the thumping of my heart and shortness of my breath in anticipation for the explosion event that was about to follow. I could only hope in my unabashedly selfish way that it would not be I who was destined for the Tree.
The door to the bedroom was thrown open and slammed against the wall startling every girl awake. Light from the hall flooded into the room blinding me and those around me. Startled shrieks punctuated the shattered night. Twenty beds in a single large room provided no privacy, but privacy was a word I was familiar with only in literature.
Matron began shouting, but I wasn't listening. She was screeching the same orders she always did when this happened. We were to get out of bed right this instant and not to bother putting anything else on. The twenty of us, clad in identical white night shirts that reached to mid thigh and white cotton panties struggled as best we could from bed and out the door under the stern gaze of Matron.
I kept my head bowed and my shoulders hunched and hoped that I was lucky enough not to warrant an encouraging swat on the way out. Matron's encouragement tended to leave welts.
Shuffling down the hallway we went. As we went, I gathered from Matron's angry voice that one of the toilets had backed up. Whether or not this had anything to do with any one of us was a point I would have argued had I been someone with more courage and less history of having my smart mouth slapped. So I kept my eyes on the back of the girl in front of me.
Then we were outside, standing in a double line in front of the Tree. I felt lucky because I had ended up in the second line. It was a flimsy defense from being singled out for punishment under the heavy boughs of the Tree, but at the time it made me feel better.
Matron was still lecturing, but try as I might, I could not pay attention. Not that it would matter. Listening wouldn't make what was coming next any better or worse for anyone here.
I tried not to think about what was coming.
It began to rain. I was startled when the first drop landed on my back, soaking quickly through my nightshirt. It was cold. I shivered.
Light came from the back door of the orphanage, which had been left open. The harsh white light spilled into the backyard and illuminated the Tree. Hanging from one of the strongest branches of the Tree was a thick rope.
I breathed a sight of relief and I wasn't the only one. Poor Annette gasped and swayed a bit where she stood. I knew this only because she was standing right in front of me. She was the girl whose back I had been staring at this whole time.
"No," Annette whispered.
My eyes were drawn to the imposing form of Matron, clad in her thick red robe, as she descended upon Annette and grabbed the girl by her blonde hair, right at the base of her head and pulled her towards the Tree.
Tears began to well up in my eyes. I hated that Tree. The light rain became a steady drizzle. I was soon soaked through. My nose began to run and I sniffled.
Where the rope from the branch touched the ground, Matron pushed Annette to her knees. Annette went without fighting. Then Matron knelt and slipped the loop of the rope around Annette's ankles and tightened it. Annette was sobbing now. Then came the creak and rasp of the rope as Matron hauled the girl into the air. Gravity did its work, pulling Annette's nightdress down about her head. It fell all the way to her armpits where it held for a moment before slipping over her head and puddling on the ground.
Clad only in rain soaked panties, Annette sobbed.
"Line up!" ordered Matron.
We all shuffled into a single file line facing Annette. None wanted to be first for that would be a betrayal of Annette but neither did any want to be last for showing any sort of reluctance to participate would result in yet another session with the Tree. I ended up somewhere in the middle and, happy to have achieved even so minor a victory, I trained my eyes once again on the back of the girl in front of me. I could see her skin through the soaked material of her nightdress. I supposed we were all so bared by the drizzle.
The first slap was muted by the water in the air and on the bottom so struck but I jumped all the same. Annette, who had already been sobbing just continued to sob. There was no obvious change in her misery. Then came the next, and the next. I simply moved forward with the line and stared at the back in front of me, trying not to think about it all.
I sniffled again.
Then the back in front of me was gone and I was confused. I shook my head and tried to remember what was going on. A sharp slap to my back jarred me to reality. Matron was glaring at me, her hand poised to strike again. It was my turn to spank Annette. I hurried forward but was not spared another spank to my back that made me wince. I, in turn, raised my hand and spanked Annette. I spanked her as hard as I could as though she were the Matron and I was taking out all the fourteen years of misery of my life on her.
Annette screamed and I began to sob. The rain hid my tears and the snot that ran down my face. Her bottom had already been red but the handprint from my spank stood out starkly. Her soaking panties hid nothing and did nothing to protect. I cried harder and went to the back of the line.
I wanted to rub my back where Matron had spanked me while I had been trying not to think, but didn't. I did not rub because Annette couldn't rub. I looked up at Annette while I waited in line for my second pass through. Matron was standing at the head of the line her hard eyes upon us. Annette swayed gently as she was spanked, her bottom was already crimson where it wasn't bruised. Her wet hair dragged on the ground in the mud. Her bound ankles looked raw from the wet rope.
When it was my turn again, I did not hesitate. Matron called my name and I stepped up to Annette, raised my hand and delivered a resounding spank. Annette howled a raspy howl and my tears continued to flow. Again I went to the back of the line.
On the third and final pass Annette's sobs had become a pitiful raspy whimper. She didn't have even the strength to cry out anymore. My own tears and unchecked runny nose would have made a mess of my face had the increasing rain not washed it away immediately.
Three passes, nineteen girls delivering three spanks each was a total of fifty seven spanks to the soaking wet and upside down bottom of poor Annette Southland.
Matron lowered Annette to the ground, grabbed her by the hair and marched her back inside. Soaking, tired, and crying, we all followed her. Back to the bedroom, Matron let go of Annette at the door and marched off leaving the rest of us to take care of her. Someone got out the towels and some one else got out a dry set of clothes. We all dried off. I watched as one of the older girls rubbed Annette dry with the towels and dressed her in new clothes.
I got a mop and along with a couple of other girls made sure the linoleum floor of the bedroom and the hallway leading to it was dry. Yet other girls collected all of our wet clothes and did a load of laundry. We all waited up and made sure all the work got done for if something went wrong who knew who would be sent to the Tree next.
All except Annette that is. She was allowed to lay tummy down on her bed, crying silently into her pillow. The discoloration still showed and would for hours if not days. The evidence of a spanking from those closest to her.