Summers with Rosie

24May10

It had been years since she had walked this lane. It all seemed so much smaller now. Although the glade through the trees was more obscured now as the trees had filled out in the intervening years.

As they went down the lane towards the house, she pointed out things to her husband. Inane things, little memories, anything she could think of, rather than to tell him about the strongest memories that this walk evoked.

As they reached the corner, she half expected to see the caravan. Of course, it was long gone. She stopped and let the sadness and bittersweet memory wash over her like the morning sun.

“What is it?” John asked.

She shook her head and smiled.

“Nothing. That’s where the gypsies used to camp.”

When she had been a girl she had run with the gypsies. Even into her late teens and beyond. They had not minded, but her father had. Although he never used her fascination with the Romany folk against them, he could so easily have had them thrown off the land.

Her best friend had been Rosie. She smiled as she remembered the first time she had seen her getting her father’s strap. The caravan door was wide open and the folk were passing by as if nothing was happening. Rosie may have been 15 or 16 then and she had been shocked to see her friend bare-bottomed and bent double over the fold away chair. Rosie had blushed a little and shrugged when she saw her watching. Then the strap had taken her across her bottom and Rosie had winced.

For the most part Rosie had taken the strapping in silence, but towards the end, she had begun to growl and then shout out with the strap’s coming. But Rosie’s father did not let up until he had achieved tears.

“Get out of my sight.” Her father had yelled and she had scampered away only to happy to obey.

“Are you alright?” Jane had asked her then.

“Sure.” Rosie had sniffed as she dried her eyes. “Its only a licking. Aint you never had a licking?”

“Mrs Gamble sometimes takes a hairbrush to my behind.” Jane had kicked the ground blushing at the memory.

“The housekeeper.” Rosie had laughed. “Ha I bet you get it bare.”

“So do you.” Jane had blushed to her ears.

Then the two girls had rushed off to more mischief that Jane could not now recall.

What she had not told Rosie until much later and her husband not at all, was how her father had punished her right up until she was married and left home. She glanced back nervously towards the glade remembering how it was.

It had been two or three summers later, or maybe four? She could not quite recall. Rosie and her people had come late that year. At first, she had not been allowed to see Rosie. Her father had said she was not fit to be seen. Mrs gamble had said it was for the best and if she heard that she had been around there again then Jane would get “the spanking of your life.”

“Oh Mrs Gamble I am too old for that.” Jane had protested.

But Mrs Gamble had given her a look that assured her she wasn’t.

Later that night Rosie had come. Pebbles had been dashed against the window.

“I can’t come now.” Jane had whisper-shouted down. “Why weren’t you allowed out earlier?”

“I met this boy in the last town.” Rosie giggled as if that explained it all. “Come down and I will tell you about it.”

Of course she had gone.

They had stayed out all night while Jane heard all the shocking details. Then they had gone swimming in the face of the early dawn. It was good to stand naked in the cool morning and feel the early sun dry them off.

“I had best be getting back.” Rosie had said. “If Da catches me out then I will get a licking.”

“Bare arsed over the fold away chair.” Jane had smirked.

“Are you hoping to watch?” Rosie giggled splashing her friend. “And what will you get? Mrs Gamble’s hairbrush or something from your father?”

“Jane.” Called a faraway voice.

“Rosie.” Followed in deeper angrier tones.

“Oh lore I think I am about to find out.” Jane gulped.

“Looks like my goose is cooked. Or should I say my arse.” Rosie quipped.

But Jane was in no mood. She was far less stoical than her friend.

Back at the house she got the dressing down of her life. Her father had heard about Rosie and the boy after he had turned out the men from the camp to look for the girls. He did not believe his daughter would be as reckless but he had to hear it from her own lips just the same.

Then once he had calmed down she heard the dreaded words.

“Go and get ready and come with me.”

“Yes father.” She had said in defeat. Although she had hoped for nothing more than a sound spanking over Mrs Gamble’s knee, she knew she deserved a harsher fate.

Getting ready involved putting on nothing but her pyjama tops. It was shameful at her age to stand so before him tugging at the short hem trying to cover herself in vain. What was worse was that success at the front left her even more exposed behind.

Then they had to take the long walk to the glade where anyone could see. The glade was where the birch trees grew and her father always made her take her time to select the best lengths.

All the while that she cut them she could see men from the camp going about their daily business, not even sparing her a glance. Not that the same could be said of the children.

Then she heard it. A regular cracking sound followed by a keening whine. One followed the other for all the time she stood in the glade at her humiliating task. Rosie was paying her own price.

By the time she had to make her way back past the camp, Jane could see Rosie sobbing at the back of her van. She looked dishevelled and grabbed at her skirted bottom as she struggled to collect firewood. Jane offered her a shrug of defiance, much like the one Rosie had offered her that first time. Only this time Rosie looked like she might cry again and looked away defeated.

It had been a long shameful walk back to the house as it always was. Then she had to stand bare-bottomed in the corner where all could see while Mrs Gamble made up the rod.

Sometimes the thrashing while bent over the back of her father’s padded study chair was the least of it, but not that day. Jane could still feel the burn and hear her own wails bouncing back off the walls all these years later.

It had been days before she saw Rosie again. Neither of them could quite sit down even then.

“Have any adventures in mind?” Jane had asked ruefully.

“Not quite yet. It’ll be a month or two before I’ll dare defy Da again.”

They had both laughed at that.

“Why are you laughing?” Jane’s husband asked as they stood at the door of the old house.

“Was I?” Jane smiled. “I suppose I should tell you.”

Ends.



2 Responses to “Summers with Rosie”

  1. 1 opsimath

    Very nice too – although, from the title, I was expecting a new chapter – or at least a new slant – on Laurie Lee’s marvellous book! Oh, I don’t know, though…

    Thank you for a quite delightful tale.

    • 2 DJ

      Thanks.

      Not actually read the book . I just chose this as a slightly summery tale.

      DJ


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