All three boys were pleased they were sharing a room, Duante and Pascoal kept congratulating Mateo on the success of his plan. But, of course, they didn't know what he had to give Father Thomas in return. Still it didn't matter, this was the start of year three and they had an English boy to get to know.
James Hunter was the fourth boy sharing their dorm, his parents had moved to Portugal. He had a Portuguese mother and had been born here, he'd been living in England since he was seven when his mum married his stepfather. So no language problems, but they would need to bring James up to speed on how things worked in school.
Pascoal was curious about James. "James," he asked as he was finishing stowing away his gear, "Why this school? I mean how come you ended up here?"
"That's easy, my dad thought it would be good for me."
"Good? A good education?" Mateo chipped in.
"Well, yeah, I suppose that too. But nah, mainly the discipline."
"Oh, I get it," Mateo replied.
"You do?" James looked at him curiously.
"Yeah, of course. Your father wants to make sure you don't just get a good education, but that you learn respect, how to behave, and the rest of that shit." Mateo smirked.
"Well yeah. But it was the same in England. I was at a private school. First, prep school, then what they call a public school, but actually that means a private school. So I'm used to it."
"You need to just watch your manners here," Pascoal told him.
"And your grades," Duante added.
"And never talk back," Mateo contributed.
"Or you get hit," James chuckled. "Been there, had it."
"It was like that in England?" Pascoal wanted to know.
"Well, I don't know what kind of discipline and punishment they dish out here."
"If you get called out in class," Pascoal told him, "for whatever. The teacher is going to hit you and I guess that means pretty much you get your arse whacked."
"You think?" James asked, wondering why he didn't know.
"It depends who it is," Duante told him.
"Yeah," this was Mateo explaining, "you see the first and second years wear short trousers. Teachers used to call us out in front of the class and smack our legs. Now we're in long trousers they can't really do that. From what I've heard they might smack you or use a ruler, I don't know, depends. The one thing you really want to avoid is a slip from a teacher to see the year head after supper."
"That means the strap," Pascoal looked at him.
"And James," Duante added, "on your bare arse."
"You talk like you've already had it."
"We all have," Mateo admitted.
"And it hurt like hell," Pascoal started jumping around holding his bottom. That made them all start laughing.
"At prep school in England they gave us a spanking."
"Yeah, we get those too." Mateo smiled.
"Later in the senior school it was the cane, and that really fucking hurt too."
"James," Mateo looked right at him, "you should try not to swear. Cos if you get heard swearing by a teacher or a prefect, then you in for it. And if you swear with us, well nobody here minds, but you know, it might just slip out of your mouth at the wrong time."
"You've got a funny way of saying that, Mat. But I get it."
"Did they cane you on your bare arse in England?" Pascoal wanted to know.
"Not usually. You had to lower your trousers, bend over, and get it, but with your underpants on. Still, underpants aren't much protection, it's pretty much the same. There was one time after rugby training. There'd been some mucking about, something got broke. Well, long story short, the master lined us all up and we'd just come out the showers. Anyway he caned each boy twice on our bare butts. Everyone could see the red stripes across each other's backsides."
"Can we talk about something else?" Duante asked. "I mean, alright, you're gonna get whacked some time this year, that's for sure. But I'd rather not think about it. Kind of spoils the atmosphere if you know what I mean. It's like talking about the other stuff that goes on."
"The other stuff?" James looked at him.
"He means what a lot of the priests do."
Pascoal didn't go into details and none of the others wanted to either. James was left to figure that side of things out for himself, but maybe he wouldn't have to, perhaps he'd be left alone. Mateo started to think about Father Thomas and this year. Would he still get called to his rooms? He didn't want to worry about that, he'd much rather think about Vicente. Anyway their getting to know you conversation came to an end because it was time for supper.
The first week of term passed almost uneventfully, with the exception of a boy called Tavaris getting called out in class by Father Benedito. What followed was not exactly unexpected, James got to see first hand how Father Benedito dealt with problem boys in the classroom. Tavaris had been pushing his luck somewhat, passing notes, then throwing paper balls. He was a nice looking boy, slim, delicate features, with longish straight hair that often hid his eyes.
Father Benedito picked up the long ruler from his desk, then started his familiar speech about behaving in class and getting down to work. "Two things you have decidedly not done," he told Tavaris, who just stood there, hands at his side. Mateo thought he looked like he'd never been disciplined, because the boy appeared like he hadn't a care in the world. Father Benedito would soon change that.
As the whole class looked on, Tavaris was told to stand by the desk and drop his trousers and underpants. Father Benedito tapped the long ruler menacingly against the palm of his left hand. "Bend over," came the all too familiar order, and Tavaris complied. The boy's legs were thin, not muscled, and as pale as the rest of him, a sort of porcelain white. He looked young for his age, the delicate bone structure of an almost feminine face was echoed in a small round bottom. Mateo breathed in, almost as if it was himself up there about to be punished, the rest of the class was silent. Father Benedito wasted no time and smartly brought the ruler down across the boy's little bottom. Tavaris cried out at the fourth and final stroke. Everyone could see the crisscrossed lines on his buttocks.
He didn't cry, if his eyes were wet, they weren't visible. Tavaris walked back to his desk opposite Mateo at the rear of the classroom. Mateo looked across, curious about the boy whom he'd never noticed until now. He was surprised when Tavaris returned the glance and they made contact as the other boy flicked the hair from his eyes. It seemed to Mateo that there was something odd about Tavaris, but he dismissed it, and they each turned away focusing on the lesson.
Later on when they were going for lunch, James came over to Mateo, and the subject of Tavaris came up again. "That kid was like a statue," James told him, "he hardly made a sound. And it must've really hurt. Did you see those stripes?"
"Probably not the close up you got from the front row. But, yeah, it does hurt like hell."
"So what's with that guy, Tavaris?"
"I got no idea. I don't know him."
They dropped their speculation about Tavaris and joined the queue in the canteen. For some reason though, that kid got inside Mateo's head. He wasn't sure if it was what happened, talking about him, or that look.