One Good Turn
Somebody once said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Well, I have good cause to believe that old saying, and I'll tell you why.
I've always been a pretty easy going sort of bloke, and a few years ago when I was 14, I used to get on well with my family, and had a great empathy with my twin sister Susan. We were always prepared to do anything for each other, and many was the time when we would provide an alibi for each other to avoid getting into trouble for our various little misdemeanours.
So it wasn't that much of a surprise when one morning we were sitting in the garden together, and Sue said to me 'Jimmy, I need you to do me a favour, a big favour.' She had picked her moment well. Only a week before, she had taken my place at a combined boys and girls school outing to see a performance of 'Swan Lake' and 'Coppelia'. Why they made a bunch of boys from my school go to see ballet was beyond me, but it was something to do with trying to improve our knowledge of the performing arts. Anyway, I was probably the only boy who managed to get out of it. When she got back she primed me, so I was able to convince both my teachers and my parents that I'd actually gone. Full of gratitude, I'd said to Sue that I owed her one, and rashly said that if she ever needed a favour in return, I would do it, no matter what. Unfortunately, I'm a man of my word.
So, when she asked me for a favour in return, I didn't hesitate to say 'Sure sis, anything. I haven't forgotten what you did for me.'
'You promise? No going back?'
'I promise. I gave my word and that's it. Now what do you want me to do?' She grinned and said 'Well, just as you wanted to get out of your school trip to the ballet, I need to get out of my class end of term trip to the museum. Normally I wouldn't mind, but it's on the same day as that open air gig at Horsham, and Angela Sewell's got tickets. Besides, she also knows one of the guys working with the band, and she's promised that we'll get to meet them afterwards. I can't pass this up Jimmy, I've got to go.'
'Well how can I help?' I said, 'You can't be in two places at once, can you?'
'No' she said, smiling slightly 'That's where you come in. You've just broken up for the holidays, but I've still got a few days to go, which makes you available. Jimmy, I want you to take my place on the school excursion.' I immediately saw where she was heading and I didn't like it. 'What!' I exclaimed, 'Are you serious? How the hell am I going to pass myself off as you? For a start, it would mean having to wear your school uniform, plus a wig I presume, and having to fool your school mates and teachers. No, it's too risky, we'd never get away with it, and if I was found out there'd be hell to pay for both of us. Oh no Sue, you can't be serious.'
She paused for a moment before continuing. 'Jimmy' she said 'I've already thought it through, and there are no problems. One, you're just my size, so my uniform will fit you perfectly. Two, I've already borrowed a good quality wig in your colour. Three, I've discussed the idea with the girls in my class, and they all think it's a great idea. And four, we are all meeting at the museum, where our only supervisors will be the museum staff and a couple of part time teachers who don't have a clue what I look like anyway.' She looked at me questioningly and added 'So there we are, there's no problem. Unless you want to go back on your word?' She had touched my Achilles heel and well she knew it. On this point I was proud to the point of stupidity. I never went back on my word.
I thought for a moment, but being unable to think of any other objections, I reluctantly agreed. 'Well I suppose it'll be all right' I said hesitantly, 'But God help us both if it goes wrong.'
'It won't' beamed Sue, hugging me with gratitude, 'Jimmy, you really are quite some brother. No one else would do it, I know.'
'No, because no one else is this daft' I said, half smiling. 'OK, it's on, but you're going to have to prime me really well. I'll need to know the names of everyone in your class, so we'd better go through your last school photo so that I can remember whose who. Are you sure they can all be trusted?'
'Of course they can' smiled my sister, 'Actually, it was one of them who suggested it. Don't worry, it'll be fun!'
'Fun?' I said ruefully, 'It won't be fun if any of my mates from school find out. If anyone saw me I'd be a laughing stock forever.'
'Oh don't worry, we'll take care of that. All the girls will keep it to themselves I promise. And if any of your mates see you, they won't recognise you by the time we've finished with you.' I wasn't sure whether to be comforted or worried by that.
Over the next few days we went over the plan to fine tune it, and several of Sue's school friends came round in the evenings to help with my preparation. Mum must have wondered why we were spending so much time upstairs in Susan's room, but she didn't say anything. They taught me how to walk like a girl, sit and stand like a girl, and even how to talk like a girl with all its subtle mannerisms. Fortunately my voice hadn't broken. They tried to cover every contingency, and finally decided that I was ready.
It was lucky for our plan that Dad was overseas on business, and Mum had to leave very early on the day of the school outing, so the coast would be clear. In addition, the girls were not meeting at the museum until 11 o'clock, so my sister would have plenty of time to get me ready before her school friends came to collect me.
On the morning of the outing I was woken by Susan, who had already been up for a while. 'Come on Jimmy, up you get' she said, 'Off to the bathroom, and when you've washed, go into my room and I'll get you dressed.' I did as I was told, and was soon standing in her room, where I took off my pyjamas. Susan and I had seen each other naked since birth, so I wasn't bashful at her seeing me undressed. Her school uniform was already laid out ready for me. 'OK Jimmy' she said, 'Knickers first.' She held out a pair of maroon school knickers, and I stepped into them. She pulled them up to my waist and high up my legs, and the elastic felt tight around my thighs and waist. A white vest followed, and she tucked it into the waist of the knickers. Next came a white blouse buttoned up to the neck, followed by a maroon and silver diagonally striped tie. 'And now for one item that I really hate wearing' said Fiona, 'Our regulation school gym tunic.'
She picked it up and held it with the back opening towards me. 'In you get' she said. I stepped into the grey tunic and she pulled it up my body before putting my arms through the armholes. Then she stood behind me and fastened the buttons running up the back. Turning me around, she did up the buckle belt and secured the two buttons which held the end of the belt in place. Pulling down the hem of the tunic so that the pleated skirt hung neatly, Fiona said 'Sit down.' I sat on the chair, and she pulled a pair of white ankle socks onto my feet and turned them down neatly at the ankle. On top of these came a pair of her brown T bar strap shoes, which she fastened on securely with the buckles at the side. Definitely a junior style, and designed not to come off.
Opening a drawer, Fiona took out a mid brown pageboy style wig that matched my own hair colouring perfectly. She ran her hairbrush through it thoroughly, and then stood in front of me. 'I'm afraid you may find this a bit humiliating' she said, 'But it will change your appearance completely. Now sit up and keep your head straight.' I did as I was told, and she pulled the wig carefully down onto my head and brushed it neatly into position.
Susan stood back and looked at me. 'Perfect' she smiled, 'Now stand up.' I stood up as she held up her maroon school blazer and I put my arms into the sleeves. She pulled it on over my shoulders, and pulled the sleeves of my blouse down so that they came level with the cuffs of the blazer. Then she stepped back to admire her handiwork. 'There we are' she said, smiling, 'One little new girl, all ready for her first day at Sion Convent. You know you really do look like a junior girl in her new uniform. Those part time teachers are never going to take you for a boy. Have a look at yourself in the mirror.'
I looked in the mirror and saw that she was right. I could hardly believe the transformation. There in front of me stood an absolutely typical Sion schoolgirl, and the uniform was slightly too big for me, which gave just the right impression of a new girl. 'Well Jimmy, you're now going to find out what I have to go through five days a week' she grinned, 'Well for once, you can suffer just like me. You look really good though, so I think you'll do very nicely. Now let's go down and get some breakfast, the others will be here soon.' We went downstairs, and as I moved about I felt restricted in the gym tunic. It certainly wasn't very comfortable.
Breakfast was a fairly quick affair, and shortly afterwards there was a knock at the door. Susan went to open it, and in came her friends Hilary, Gillian, Tessa and Fiona. They were all wearing their school uniforms and were carrying their school mackintoshes over their arms, so they were obviously expecting rain.
Coming into the lounge where I was standing, they gathered around and inspected me.
'Well' said Hilary, 'That's pretty good. I'd say that if you saw him in the street you really wouldn't give him a second glance. You'd just take him for another schoolgirl. Those teachers will never guess. Yep, I'm sure he'll be all right.'
'What about everyone else?' said Fiona, 'What do you reckon Tess?'
'No problem' said Tessa, 'He looks fine.' Gillian grinned at me and said 'I think he looks perfect' and Fiona said 'I wouldn't mind him filling in for me on a few school trips. He does look good.'
'Well I'm happy with how he looks' said Susan, ' So you might as well go. But before you do, I must take some pictures of Jimmy, just for the record.' She went to the sideboard and took out her camera. 'Come on' she said, 'Outside in the garden, the light's better.' The girls bustled me into the garden, and soon I had been photographed from all angles. That done, we went indoors again and prepared to leave.
'He's going to need a mac as well' said Fiona, 'It's going to pour pretty soon, and besides, if we put the hood up it'll hide his face pretty well.'
'Of course, what a good idea' said Susan, 'Just a minute, I'll get it.' She went into the hall, took down her school mackintosh from a coat hook, and a moment later came back into the lounge with it. 'Here we are' she said gleefully. She grinned as she said to me 'Now Jimmmy, you're going to experience what it's like to wear the most hated part of our school uniform, our regulation school mackintosh. We have to wear our school macs all the time of course, so I don't see why you shouldn't suffer as well for once.'
It was a typical, rather old-fashioned single breasted girl's school mackintosh made of unlined light grey rubberised cotton. It featured a buckle belt supported by two keepers attached to the mac, one on either side of the waist. From the shoulders hung a non-detachable hood with a square top, which was a common style on girl's school raincoat hoods. The hood had a maroon lining, and tie tapes to secure it under the chin. Susan held her mackintosh up for me to put on, and I obediently put my arms into the sleeves. Standing in front of me, she fastened the buttons up to my neck. Then she passed the belt through the buckle, pulled it tight around my waist, and did up the securing buttonhole at the end of the belt.
I stood there examining the very juvenile style mackintosh I was now wearing, and like the rest of the uniform, it was too large for me. The hem hung down about eight inches below my knees, and the cuffs of the sleeves came down to halfway along my fingers. Yes, I looked like a little new girl all right. 'Now you can see why we hate wearing them' said Fiona. 'They look fine on little girls of about eight or ten, but by the time you are our age you feel like a total idiot wearing them. We're the laughing stock of the girls from other schools.'
'Tell me about it' said Sue, looking at her watch. 'OK, you'd better get going.'
We all went out into the hall, and as she opened the door we saw that it had started raining quite heavily. 'Right Jimmy' said Sue, 'We'd better put up your hood now I think. By the way, Fiona had a very good idea just now. With your hood up, you'll be well covered, and less likely to be discovered. So I want to be sure that you keep that hood up all day. I know you'll want to take it off if it gets too hot, but you mustn't, alright?' I nodded doubtfully, as I didn't really fancy keeping the hood up all day, especially indoors at the museum.
She pulled the mackintosh hood up over my head, and then, pulling the tapes tight, she fastened them under my chin in a bow before giving the hood a final tug forward around my face.
'There' said Susan, 'That'll keep you snug. How's that, Fiona?'
'Perfect' said Fiona, grinning, 'I must say, he does look rather sweet, doesn't he?'
'Well that's the general idea' said Hilary, 'Come on everybody, let's go.' Susan held the door open for us, and as she did so, she said to me 'Now Jimmy, everything depends on you. I want you to do whatever Fiona or Hilary tell you to do, and everything will be fine. OK?' I nodded uncertainly, as it was too late to turn back now, anyway. Before going out into the pouring rain, the girls all put on their mackintoshes, and when they were buttoned up and belted, they put up the hoods and fastened them on by the tie tapes tied in a bow under their chin, although some of the hoods had a button flap fastening instead.
We went out into the street as Sue closed the door behind us, and were soon walking along the pavement towards the bus stop, where we stood in the rain for a few minutes until the bus arrived. We got on, and after we had paid our fares, Fiona and Hilary took me down to sit at the back of the bus. There were several other schoolgirls in the Sion Convent uniform sitting there, most of whom were wearing grey mackintoshes identical to mine. As they sat down they unfastened their hoods so that they hung down their backs. Having been instructed not to, I didn't undo my hood, so I had to sit there peering out demurely from under mine.
Fiona and Hilary introduced me to the other girls, and a chorus of giggles went around the bus. They obviously approved of dressing a boy as a girl. 'I'd love to do this to my brother' said one of them, 'We must try it on him sometime. We'll dress him up (I've got plenty of things I can blackmail him with to make him co-operate), and then we can take him into town dressed as a little schoolgirl. You guys would help, wouldn't you?'
'Sure' said one of the others, 'With pleasure. As long as you help me to do the same to my brother.'
'And mine' said another girl. 'All right' said Fiona, 'That's enough. We'll take care of them some time, but for today, let's just concentrate on Jimmy pretending to be his sister shall we? Now, I think we'd better start calling Jimmy by his sister's name from now on, so we'll all call him Susan. All right everybody?' I was stung into protest. 'Oh come on' I said, 'Do you have to?'
'Of course we do' said Fiona, 'You are supposed to be her, so try and get used to it.'
'Oh yes, I think we can remember that all right' laughed Hilary. 'So, from now on he's Susan. Now the main thing is not to let the part time teachers realise that he's a boy. They'll probably ask why he's still got his hood up when we are inside the museum, so I'll tell them that Susan's got a slight chill, and has to be kept warm.'
'Unfortunately for Jimmy, we all know what it's like wearing our school macs indoors. It gets very hot and sticky, especially if they're wet. Most of us today are of course wearing our school summer dresses, but Sue's dressed him in her winter uniform with her gym tunic and blazer. With her hood up, this Susan's going to get pretty uncomfortable, but that's a sacrifice she'll have to put up with. What we mustn't do at any cost is let the teachers find out that the real Susan isn't here. Now has everybody got it?'
'Got it' came a chorus of girl's voices in reply. What the other few passengers on the bus made of this performance I couldn't imagine, although two women nearby seemed to think the whole episode amusing, and kept looking at me and grinning.
I now realised that the road to hell really is paved with good intentions. What had started out as a generous attempt to do my sister a favour was turning into dangerously humiliating fun for these girls at my expense. Well, there was nothing I could do about it now. I was in it up to my neck.
The bus was hot, and sure enough my wet, warm mackintosh soon became unbearable to wear. It smelt of rubber, and the smell and dampness added to my discomfort as I began to sweat profusely. Those girls who were wearing their macs soon had the pleasure of removing them completely, but as I instinctively went to unfasten the tie tapes under my chin to do the same thing, Fiona put her hands on mine and said 'Not yet Jennifer,' and smiled.
We finally arrived at the city centre and got off the bus. It was still raining, so those girls that had taken off their mackintoshes on the bus put them on again and put up their hoods. It only took about ten minutes to reach the museum, and as soon as we were inside, the girls removed their macs and carried them. They obviously didn't like wearing the hot, sticky things any more than I did, and I didn't blame them. Unfortunately, I didn't have the same choice, as Fiona and Hilary constantly reminded me.
A couple of dozen other girls from Sion Convent were already there, and Fiona and her friends lost no time in explaining the situation to them. Apart from a few amused looks at me from them, they covered up my identity pretty successfully. A moment later, two part time teachers and a member of the museum staff called us together, and the tour began. The dinosaur exhibition was very interesting, and I almost forgot how I was dressed, and began to enjoy it. But Fiona and Hilary never left my side, which was just as well. Suddenly, one of the teachers came up to me and said 'You girl, why have you still got your hood up? Take it off, you'll be far too hot.'
'Excuse me miss' Fiona interjected quickly, 'She's got laryngitis. The doctor said she must keep warm.' The teacher looked at me for a moment and said 'Well she looks as if she might have a temperature, she's very flushed. I don't really think she should have come, but still, you're here now, so I suppose you might as well stay. All right dear, you'd better keep your hood on, but don't do any talking, and if you feel unwell, one of the girls can take you home. By the way, what's your name, just in case?' I demurely said 'Susan Chapman, miss.' She jotted the name down on a piece of paper and walked away. Fiona chuckled. 'It worked' she said gleefully, 'Now let's enjoy the rest of the tour. It's better than I expected actually.' We continued on the tour, and as time passed, the heat inside my mackintosh became unbearable, and I decided to take it off, regardless of the risk. I edged away from the group, and quickly removed my mackintosh before rejoining the group with the mac hanging over my arm like the other girls.
When Fiona saw me she silently exploded, but there wasn't much she could do about it, and I started to feel much more comfortable. Nevertheless, Hilary and Fiona now stuck to me like a leech.
After about another hour, we were standing around a case of fossils when Fiona looked up and a look of panic crossed her face as she stared across the gallery. 'Oh no!' she whispered emphatically. Hilary and I both looked in the direction in which she was staring, and Hilary's face went white. 'Oh dear, here comes trouble' she murmured. 'What's up?' I asked. 'It's Miss Frost and Miss Jones, our class teachers,' said Fiona. 'If they see you this could get difficult. Just try and avoid them.' I turned my face to the display cabinet, and suddenly realised that my heart was thumping wildly. Suddenly I was scared. The two teachers came up to the group, and briefly spoke to the temporary teachers before standing behind us.
Our tour continued, and we three kept the main group between ourselves and the two teachers as much as we could. And all might have been well but for an unfortunate coincidence. As we reached the end of the tour in the entrance hall of the museum, Miss Frost said 'Right everyone, I'm just going to hold a roll call before you disperse. Everybody stand still.' She couldn't have picked a worse moment as I was standing directly in front of her not more than ten feet away. She produced a clip board, and began calling out the name of each girl, each of whom answered.
I began to panic as the inexorable alphabetic list of names was read out, and I almost jumped when she called out 'Susan Chapman.' Silence. I didn't have the nerve to call out. Pity, because if I had, it would have saved the day. She paused and called out 'Susan Chapman. Where are you?' Then came the unfortunate coincidence. The temporary teacher who had spoken to me earlier, pointed at me and said 'She's here. Why didn't you answer girl?'
Miss Frost looked at me, puzzled, for a moment, and then a frown came over her face. 'Come here' she said. Now blushing deeply I reluctantly stepped forward and stood in front of her. Still looking puzzled, she said 'This isn't Susan Chapman, what makes you think she is?'
'Well that's the name she gave me' said the other woman, 'Just now, she was still wearing her mackintosh with the hood up indoors, and when I asked why, her friend here said that she had laryngitis and must be kept warm.' Miss Frost looked at me closely and said 'But this isn't Susan Chapman, in fact I don't know who she is. Who exactly are you girl?'
At this point I knew that under such close scrutiny, the game was up. With tears of embarrassment I looked at her and said quietly 'I'm sorry miss, I'm her brother.' There was a stunned silence as a look of disbelief came over Miss Frost's face. Suddenly she regained her composure, and leaning forward, she put up her hand to my head and pulled off my wig. A quiet titter of nervous laughter went round the group. 'Quiet!' called out Miss Frost, her face becoming grimmer by the second, 'This is a serious matter. Who else knows about this? And I want to know now!' Fiona and Hilary quietly raised their hands to spare anyone else from being involved. 'Very well' said Miss Frost, 'The rest of you can go. You three come with me.'
The group broke up, while Miss Frost and Miss Jones escorted us to their car. We three sat in the back while the two teachers occupied the front seats. Miss Jones drove off, and after a few minutes Fiona timorously asked 'What's going to happen Miss?'
'That will depend on the headmistress' she replied, 'We're going back to school to see her now, so she can decide what to do with you. And as for you young man, I can't imagine what your fate will be, or your sister's. I'd say she's going to be in for a nasty shock.' The car sped on, and after a short while we drove in through the main gate of Sion Convent and stopped outside the main door. We got out, and were shepherded in through the entrance, and down a corridor until we stood before an imposing wooden door. On it was written Miss Amelia Williams. Principal. I began to quiver nervously.
Miss Jones knocked on the door, and a voice from within called out 'Come in'. Miss Frost opened the door and we all went in. In front of us sat an imperious looking middle-aged woman sitting behind a large desk. The two teachers stood to one side. The headmistress contemplated us silently for a moment, and then said 'Well, what have we here?' Miss Frost lost no time in explaining why we were there, and as she questioned the girls and myself, Miss Williams' expression changed from puzzlement to slight amusement, and finally to a baleful stare. I felt as if she were looking right through me.
After pausing at some length she said 'Well Fiona and Hilary, as relatively minor participants in this affair, your punishment will be meted out to you at the beginning of next term. I'll decide what to do with you during these next two weeks holiday. But you and your sister young man, are a different matter altogether. I don't think you yet realise the seriousness of what you've done. I'm going to discuss the situation with your parents first, and then you will be informed as to my course of action.' She stood up and said 'That will be all for now. You may go. Jimmy, you can walk home through the streets just as you are, but without your wig as a disguise. I'll give it to your mother later. Hopefully, some of your friends will see you dressed like that, as I imagine it will be rather embarrassing for you if they do.'
Mumbling our apologies, the two girls and I left the room. We went outside and silently walked down to the school's main gate. I put up the hood of my raincoat to hide my by now obviously boy's head, and as we walked homeward, Fiona said 'Well we really blew it that time, didn't we? I'm so sorry Jimmy, I never dreamt things would turn out like this. Old batty Williams is known for her imaginative punishments, so you'd better be prepared for the worst.'
We finally arrived home, and as I opened the door and we went in, we heard Susan come running out, all smiles and excitement. 'The show was fabulous' she said 'We .' She stopped dead as she realised that something was seriously wrong. We all went and sat down in the lounge, and while we described what had happened her face changed from joy to misery in record time. When we had finished she looked at us glumly, and said 'Well, there's no use crying over spilt milk. We'll just have to take what comes. Oh Jimmy' she said, taking my hand, 'I'm so sorry about this. If Miss Williams persuades Mum to give her a free hand in your punishment, you'll need all the sympathy you can get.'
After a short time, the girls went home, and I changed into my own clothes. Sue and I decided not to tell Mum what had happened, as the Sion Convent headmistress would no doubt tell her in due course. So when Mum arrived home and made our tea, we kept quiet. In retrospect, it might have been better if we'd got her on side before she met Miss Williams. That was another of our mistakes.
Sue and I heard nothing more about the incident for all of three days. Then, one morning as we sat down to breakfast, Mum said 'Well you two, I had a very interesting discussion with Miss Williams yesterday. She asked me to go up and see her, and I imagine you know what we were talking about.' Sue and I looked at each other and stopped eating. 'Yes Mum' said Sue quietly, 'We just didn't know how to tell you. What did she say?'
'Well' said Mum, 'She was very calm about it. Obviously she thinks carefully before she acts. She gave me a fairly detailed account of what happened, but she said that in all fairness, I should hear your version of what happened before we discuss what action she should take. So, what did happen?'
For the best part of an hour we told Mum everything about our escapade, and like the headmistress, her expression varied from a faint smile to a frown of grim reality. When we had exhausted our memories, she sat silently for a moment and said. 'All right, now I've heard both sides of the story, and I think I'm prepared for our meeting with Miss Williams this afternoon.'
'Our meeting?' said Susan with a frown, 'You mean we've got to go too?'
'Of course' said Mum. You are the major players in this little drama. This afternoon she will decide what your punishment is going to be. You do understand that you should be punished don't you?'
'Yes of course we do' said Susan, 'It's just that I'm a bit scared as to what it will be. Miss Williams has got a fearful reputation.'
'Oh come on Sue' I scoffed. 'It won't be a beating like at my school. Apart from that, what else can really hurt?'
'Oh my poor Jimmy' grimaced Sue, 'Just wait, you'll soon find out.'
Breakfast continued in a fairly subdued manner after that, and in the early afternoon it was time for Mum to take us up to Sion Convent.
When we arrived, she parked the car outside the gate, and we walked in and up to the main door. We went in, and just inside the door, Miss Frost was waiting for us. 'Oh good afternoon Mrs. Chapman' she said, 'Thank you for being so prompt. I think everybody else is here, so please come with me.' We walked down to the headmistress' study, and as she knocked on the door she said to Susan and myself 'You two wait outside until we call you.' She took Mum inside, and we could hear a discussion taking place. Unfortunately we couldn't make out what was being said due to the thickness of the door.
After what seemed an age, the door was finally opened by Miss Frost who said 'All right you two, you can come in now.' We went in through the door and found ourselves facing an intimidating group, all of whom we recognised. Sitting behind the large desk were Miss Williams, Mr. Matthews, the headmaster of my school (what the hell was he doing there?) and Jane Taylor, headmistress of St. Michael's Primary School. Seated to one side were Mum and Miss Frost. Two vacant seats awaited Susan and I directly in front of the desk. 'Sit down' said Miss Williams, not altogether unkindly. We sat down bolt upright, and Miss Williams began.
'Now Susan and James, I understand from your mother that you appreciate the gravity of what you have done, and have agreed that some kind of penalty should be imposed for this misdemeanour. As teachers, our aim is to educate, but it is also to instil responsible behaviour. What you did, both when you Susan, went on Jimmy's excursion to the ballet, and even more seriously Jimmy, when you impersonated your sister on her excursion, was irresponsible in the extreme. Not only was it an attempt to deceive us, but the consequences of, for example, an accident, would have had very serious implications with regard to insurance claims and the like. In a word, you seem to have not yet learned the possible consequences of your childish actions. I have carefully considered my options, and my colleagues and your mother have agreed that I should devise your punishment. After due consideration, this I have done.'
She turned at looked at my sister. 'Susan, since you still insist on behaving as a child, you will spend the first month of next term attending St Michael's Primary School under the personal supervision of Miss Taylor here. You will be in the class for eight year olds, and as an eight year old you will be treated. You will be supplied with your primary school uniform, which you will continue to wear both in the evenings and at the weekend. Your mother will ensure that you are taken into town from time to time so that you may be exposed to the ridicule of all who see you.' Susan blanched as her punishment was announced, and tears of humiliation ran down her cheeks. I felt so sorry for her.
Then it was my turn. 'And now for you young man. Your headmaster feels that something more leisurely than a short lived six of the best and a detention is in order. Besides, your offence comes within the jurisdiction of this school, and he has therefore agreed that I should decide what is to done with you. From your performance the other day, you seem to have displayed a willingness to wear the uniform of this school. Very well, you will attend Sion Convent as a pupil for a period of one month. You will of course wear your sister's school uniform both at school, in the evenings, and at weekends, just as your sister will wear hers. The two of you should look quite delightful walking around town together.'
'While you attend this school, you will be in the junior school in their separate building to avoid any contact with Hilary, Fiona, and their classmates. They will be dealt with separately. You will therefore be in a class of 12 year old girls, so I'm sure you will enjoy that!' A faint flicker of a smile crossed her face as she visualised the prospect. 'Now one other thing. In order that neither of you falls back with your proper school work, you will still do your normal homework in the evening and at weekends. That means Jimmy, that every day you will have to go to your own school dressed in your Sion uniform to collect your homework. I suspect that the boys there will give you a reception to remember. You have a computer at home, and both your schools are on line, so you will have all the assistance you need. Are there any questions?'
There were none, and so she said 'Very well, that will be all. I will expect Mrs.Chapman to make proper arrangements to ensure that their school uniform requirements are complied with. Thank you very much everyone, and James, I'll expect to see you here on the first day of term. Goodbye.'
We all rose, and after quietly making our polite farewells, Susan and I went out with Mum. We were silent until we reached home, and we went into the lounge and sat down, staring at each other glumly.
'I don't believe it' said Sue, 'Me, in a primary school uniform. I'll be a laughing stock for the rest of my life.'
'Well what about me?' I replied indignantly, 'A month dressed as a junior Sion schoolgirl in a class of 12 year olds.' Even Sue couldn't help but grin at the prospect. 'Well anyway' said Mum. 'You're both going to get what you deserve, and hopefully it'll teach you to think more carefully in future before you do these silly things. I love you both dearly, but on this occasion I'm going to make quite sure that you fulfil all the conditions of your punishment to the letter. So don't expect any sympathy from me. Make the most of your next two weeks holiday, because the following month certainly won't be much fun for either of you.'
The next two weeks went by all too quickly, and in no time at all the first day of our punishment arrived. Mum had fully prepared our wardrobes with her usual thorough efficiency. Every item of our normal clothing was locked away, and Susan's school uniform now filled my wardrobe and chest of drawers. Susan was no better off. The week before, Jane Taylor had delivered two complete St Michael's uniforms in her size, ready for use. The time had come to pay the piper.
Mum got us both up very early, and helped me dress, as she realised that the reluctant Susan was at least putting on something familiar, even if she hadn't worn it since she was 11. But in my case help was required. Item by item, Mum put me into Sue's school uniform. The white vest, maroon knickers, crisply ironed white blouse and school tie, and then the grey gym tunic. She was obviously going to have to dress and undress me, as there was no way I could reach the buttons down the back. On my feet went my white ankle socks and a pair of brown T bar sandals buckled securely on, and finally my maroon school blazer. Just as I thought that was it, I found there was one last item I was going to find humiliating in the extreme.
'Now Jimmy' said Mum with a slight smile, 'I've had a specific request from Miss Williams that both you and Susan are to wear hair ribbons every day. I can't think of anything more humiliating for you especially, but as I said, I'm going to see that every instruction is carried out. Now sit still.'
I glumly endured what was about to become a daily ritual. After combing my hair down the centre, she picked up a white elastic band, and pulling my hair on one side into a bunch, she wound it tightly around my hair. She did the same on the other side of my head, so that I now had two short bunches of hair sticking up conspicuously. Then, taking a length of white hair ribbon, she wound it firmly around one bunch of hair, and tied it tightly in position in a non-slip bow. 'Ow!' I said 'That hurt Mum, it's too tight!' I'd forgotten that these ribbons were being tied into my own hair.
'Nonsense' she said with a grin, 'That's how it has to be done. Don't worry, you'll get used to it.' She then repeated the process with the other bunch of hair, and finished off the effect by clipping two pink plastic hair slides into my hair to secure the ribbons. As a finishing touch, she combed my hair forward in a fringe, and taking a pair of scissors, cut it across the front in a neat, even line.
'There' she smiled, 'Lovely. Oh yes, I think you're going to make a lovely little girl. Fortunately, your hair is quite long for a boy, so I don't think there's any chance that your hair ribbons are going to fall out. Now stand up and let's have a look at you.' I did as I was told, and as I did so, Sue came into the room in her dressing gown and saw me. She couldn't help but burst out laughing. 'How delightful' said Sue, 'What an absolutely adorable little schoolgirl. Let's take her downstairs.'
'Not yet young lady' smiled Mum. 'Now it's your turn to get dressed. Come on, I'll help you. Jimmy, you go downstairs and start your breakfast, we won't be long.' She accompanied a reluctant Susan into her room while I went downstairs, wondering what Sue was going to look like. I sat at the table munching on my corn flakes, while every so often a wail of protest from Susan drifted down from above. At last I heard them coming down the stairs, and turned to look.
Mum led a sheepish, almost tearful Susan into the kitchen. There before me stood my twin sister, the very picture of a little eight year old primary schoolgirl. She wore a blue and white check gingham dress buttoned up to the neck at the front. It had a white pointed collar, and the short sleeves had white cuffs. The breast pocket had a white strip at the opening, and a belt with a white plastic buckle encircled her waist. It ran through two keepers attached to the dress at the sides, and the end of the belt was secured with a white button. On her feet she wore a pair of white cotton ankle socks neatly turned down at the top, and her feet were encased in a pair of brown mary jane T bar strap shoes, securely buckled at the side. But it was her hair that caught my attention. It had been styled identically to mine. A centre parting, two large bows of white hair ribbon, two pink plastic hair slides, and a neatly cut fringe across the front completed the little girl effect. To a 14 year old girl, the humiliation must have been devastating, and it showed, as tears began to run down her cheeks. I felt so sorry for her.
I silently got up from my chair, went over to her, took her hand, and squeezed it gently before I led her back to the breakfast table. I looked into her tearful eyes and said 'Cheer up sis, at least we've both got a shoulder to cry on.' She looked at me and smiled through her tears. 'You are the best brother in the world' she said, and wiped her eyes.
Breakfast proceeded much like any other pre school affair, and soon the moment of truth arrived. It was time to go. Mum now topped off our misery with just a little more icing on the humiliation cake. First she made Susan put on her royal blue primary school blazer, and then she said. 'It's pouring with rain this morning, but fortunately Sue, Miss Taylor has supplied you with a lovely mackintosh raincape, just like the one you used to wear when you were little. She insisted that you wear it to school if it's raining.' She went into the hall and came back with it. Here we are' she said, and held up a red rubberised cotton raincape. Susan took one look at it, and her grimace of distaste spoke volumes.
'Yes' she grinned as she examined it, 'This will do perfectly for a primary school girl, so let's see if it fits. Jane Taylor said it would be plenty big enough.' Susan stood there in abject misery while Mum draped the cape around her shoulders and fastened the buttons down the front. The cape smelled rubbery, like her grey school mackintosh, and it hung down to just below her knees. It was a perfect fit, and Susan knew it, much to her obvious dismay. 'There' said Mum, 'That'll keep you nice and dry. Oh but we mustn't forget to put up your hood must we? We don't want to get your pretty hair ribbons wet.' You could tell that she enjoyed rubbing it in as she pulled up the pointed pixie hood of the raincape, buttoned it firmly under Susan's chin, and gave the hood a final tug forward to make sure that it covered her head properly. Standing back, she grinned and said 'There we are, one little girl all ready for the rain. Now for number two. Jimmy, go and get Susan's school mackintosh.' I reluctantly went into the hall and took down Sue's mackintosh from the coat hook. I handed it to Mum, and in no time she had me buttoned into it, the belt securely buckled, and the hood up over my head, firmly tied on with the tie tapes tied in a bow under my chin.
'All right girls' grinned Mum, 'Off you go. I don't need to warn you of the consequences of not turning up at school, so I won't go on about it. Suffice to say that you would desperately regret it. Now don't forget Susan, you report to Miss Taylor when you get to school, and you Jimmy, report to Miss Williams. Right, off you both go, and don't get into trouble.' She opened the door, and Sue and I set out into a heavy downpour. The wind blew the driving rain hard against my mackintosh, and I must admit that I was almost glad to be wearing it, even though the rain poured down it onto my bare legs and soaked my feet in their short ankle socks and sandals. As we walked along, the hem of my wet mackintosh slapped against my bare legs, and the hood restricted my field of view. I felt so like a little girl as I peered out from under the rain soaked hood of my school mackintosh, and I was terrified of being seen by any of my mates on their way to school. But my heart still went out to my sister, with her face framed in the cute pixie hood of her little girl raincape. It must have been awful for her.
Eventually, we reached the primary school and had to part. 'Be careful with the senior girls' said Sue, 'They can be really beastly, so try to stay away from them. Good luck, and I'll see you tonight.'
'Bye Sue' I said, 'Just do as they say, and keep thinking of me as well. See you later.' My sister turned into the gate of the primary school and walked up to the door, to all appearances, a rain soaked, red caped little primary school girl. But I had to get along myself. Wouldn't do to be late.
I reached Sion Convent after a few minutes, went in through the main gate with a crowd of mackintosh clad girls, and made my way in through the main door. I was surrounded by girls removing their mackintoshes to hang them up, but I just untied my hood and let it hang down my back. I went up to the door of the headmistress' study and knocked. My first day at Sion had begun.
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