The Head Mistress's Head Mistress (aka Madam Martinique's Name)

This story is the story of how Madam Martinique, the head mistress of the finishing school that bore her name, had come to be in the care of the unforgettable Jane Thompson. It's based on Seasons of Change, copyright 1989 by Joel Larence, but more on the continuation of that original story into a series, copyright 1997 to 2008 by Tigger.

The Head Mistress's Head Mistress (aka Madam Martinique's Name)
Copyright 2009 by Heather Rose Brown
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-= Prologue =-

Madam Martinique graciously accepted the cup of steaming black coffee offered to her, took a delicate sip, then closed her eyes for a moment as she sighed with appreciation. "This is absolutely perfect Mary. Ms. Thompson would have given you high marks for both this fine brew and for remembering how I liked it."

"Are you talking about Jane Thompson?" asked the part time supply clerk and full time friend of the head mistress as she hopped up into an overstuffed chair.

"The very same," the head mistress answered as she set her cup and saucer on the antique table between her and her friend.

Mary smiled, the corners of her eyes crinkling with playfulness. "So, since we've actually managed to get a quiet moment to ourselves this morning, would it be possible to drag the story out of you of how you met her?"

Madam Martinique glanced at the grandfather clock tucked into the far corner of her private study. "It does appear as if I have a few minutes to share a thing or two about my experiences with her."

"I'm all ears!"

"Well, she's the woman who gave me my first name."

"I remember you telling me Martinique wasn't your birth name, but how did someone like Jane Thompon wind up giving you the name you use now?"

Madam Martinique was silent for a moment as she studied her friend's face. "If I tell you, I'll need to ask you to keep it in strictest confidence."

"Of course. You have my word. I'll never share this with anyone without your consent."

"Thank you, Mary. You're a good friend." The head mistress looked out the window, watching the sparkling morning sunlight dance amongst the few dry leaves still clinging to the trees directly outside. "I suppose, in order to tell the story properly, I'd need to go back to before I came into the picture."

-= 1 =-

"Ms. Thompson?" asked a soft voice, delicately flavored with a French Canadian accent.

Jane Thompson closed her weary eyes for a moment before peering over the wall of folders stacked around her in neatly arranged chaos. "Marie," she said when she recognized the housekeeper's friendly smile. "It's so nice to see you again. What brings you to Mrs. Carlton's office this time of night?" She glanced at the elegant watch on her wrist before amending, "Make that, morning."

"Actually, since you're now the head mistress of Eastmore, this would be your office, Ms. Thompson."

The new head mistress sighed, sinking into what was now HER leather chair. After a moment, she squared her shoulders, straightened out of her slouch, and held her chin high. "Point taken."

"I'm sorry," Marie whispered as she dropped her eyes.

"What on earth are you apologizing for?"

"I ... I shouldn't have corrected you like that."

"Oh, for goodness sakes." Jane jumped to her feet and marched around her desk. Marie's eye's went wide and a tiny eep escaped her lips before the head mistress pulled up short. Noticing the tray Marie held in her shaking hands, Jane carefully took it from her and set it down on a nearby coffee table before turning back to the housekeeper with a warm smile.

"Marie," said the head mistress, with a voice both gentle and firm, "you're the first person who's said anything the least bit useful to me since I accepted this position. Right now, I'll take all the feedback I can get."

Some of the tension eased from the housekeeper's shoulders. "Is that why you've been reading through all of those student files?"

Jane blinked in surprise. "How'd you know they were student files?"

"It was mostly just a guess. I assumed they weren't staff files, since there's way too many folders on your desk."

"That's a fairly reasonable deduction based on observable evidence," the head mistress said as she unconsciously slipped into her former teacher role for a moment. "You're correct about there being fewer staff files. I was able to get through them late this morning."

Jane glanced out a window at the pale light of dawn peeking through grey clouds heavy with the threat of rain. "Make that late yesterday morning. The student files have been taking me much longer to read through."

" Mon Dieu! You've been at this since yesterday morning? I must say, I admire your stamina. I don't think I could spend the whole day reading through all those files."

"Well, there wasn't much unexpected information in the staff files, but I did come across some surprising tidbits in the student files."

"Oh really?" Marie asked, curiosity plain on her face.

"Quite," Jane answered as she reached over the folders stacked across the front of her desk and picked up the file she had just been reading. "For instance, it appears a new student is scheduled to be brought here late this morning ... a male student."

"Another one? I thought we weren't taking any more."

The head mistress picked up several more folders. "So, these other boys were really enrolled here as well?"

Surprise, followed by confusion flitted across Marie's face. "Miss Erminson didn't tell you about that?"

"You mean, my so called personal assistant?" Jane nearly spat the last two words. "The only thing she told me was to not worry about our new student." She shook her head in disbelief. "A boy is about to be enrolled at what's supposed to be an all-girl school, and I'm not to worry? Why in the world would someone enroll a boy here?"

"I don't know if it'd be my place to say, Ma'am."

Jane sighed, then gave the other woman an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't burden you with my problems." She just then noticed the rich scent of freshly brewed coffee and bent over the tray on the table to better appreciate the aroma. "This smells wonderful. Would you care to join me in a cup?"

"That'd be lovely. Unfortunately, I only brought the one cup, so I don't--"

The head mistress interrupted the excuse with a harrumph before fishing out a large white mug from amongst the piles of paperwork on her desk. After placing the mug next to the more delicate teacup already on the tray and dropping the folders she'd been carrying on the other side of the coffee table, she looked up at Marie with a warm, friendly smile as she picked up the carafe. "Why don't you have a seat while I pour?" she asked as she nodded to the small sofa behind the table.

Marie stood for a moment, watching the other woman starting to fill both cups with steaming, caffeinated ambrosia, before perching nervously on the proffered seating.

After finding out how the other woman took her coffee, Jane prepared both cups, and offered the more delicate one to Marie before sitting down a companionable distance from her on the sofa. "Thank you so much for joining me. I really did need a break and having someone who doesn't treat me like an invader in this office is a welcome relief."

Marie studied the head mistress over the rim of her teacup as she sipped her coffee. "Actually, I should be the one thanking you."

"Whatever for?"

"Being a member of the housekeeping staff, I tend to be treated as. ..."

"Inferior?"

Marie nodded, intently studying the ripping reflections in her cup.

"I've noticed that attitude in too many of the teaching staff. As a member of that group, I'd like to apologize for such such boorish rudeness."

The housekeeper forced herself to look Jane in the eye. "Ms. Thompson, there's no need for you to apologize. You've always. ..."

The head mistress held up a hand. "Please, call me Jane. Otherwise, I'll have to call you Miss Bellemont."

Marie's brows slid up high on her forehead. "I had no idea you knew my last name."

"Like I said, I went through all the staff files yesterday morning. But please, continue what you were saying."

"Thank you, Ms Tho-- I mean, Jane. I just wanted to let you know I noticed how you've always treated me, as well as everyone else with which I've seen you interact, with kindness and respect. As for the way the other teaching staff members acted ... well, there's no way you could have done anything about that."

"Perhaps. Perhaps not. Whatever the case may have been, I do have the power now to make some needed changes." Jane reached across the coffee table and carefully placed her mug on the tray before straightening back up with unaffected poise and returning her full attention to Marie. "I assure you, if certain individuals aren't willing to learn to treat their co-workers with respect, heads will roll."

Just as Marie's jaw dropped in surprise at the unexpected proclamation, the office door swung open and a determined looking Miss Erminson strode in. She had only taken a few steps into the office before she froze and turned to the women seated on the sofa. "Ms. Thompson? What are you doing here so early in the morning?" She glared at Marie. "More importantly, what are you doing fraternizing with the help?"

Jane drew herself up to her full height. Even though she wasn't any taller than Miss Erminson, the head mistress still managed to tower over her personal assistant. "Miss Bellemont is not 'the help'. She is your co-worker and deserving of your respect. If you can not do that, you are welcome find employment elsewhere."

The personal assistant's mouth opened and closed twice before she was able to speak. " Who's Miss Bellemont, and what do you mean by 'find employment elsewhere'? Am I ... being fired?"

The head mistress regarded Miss Erminson for several long seconds. "I'm not a woman to make empty threats, so I will only tell you this once. You are very, very close to losing your position as my assistant."

"For what, referring to the help as the help?"

The head mistress threw her shoulders back and gave the other woman a thoroughly withering look. "Miss Erminson, your behavior now, as well as what I've observed in the past, has led me to believe your presence will be a hinderance to the changes I am planning to make. Therefore, your services will no longer be required."

"You ... you can't do that. You need me!"

"To a certain extent, you are correct. The position of head mistress does require the assistance of someone upon whom I can rely." Turning regally from the start of Miss Erminson's triumphant grin to Marie's confused expression, Jane said, "Miss Bellemont, I have a position recently open as a personal assistant. Would you be interested in such a position?"

It took a moment before Marie found her voice. "I'd be honored, but--"

"Don't worry about the details, dear. I'll have a word with the head of the housekeeping staff and work out a replacement for you."

"Wait a minute!," Miss Erminson shouted. "You can't give her my position."

Jane Thompson slowly turned back, arching her brow in a way that made her former assistant cringe. "Is that so?" she asked, every carefully enunciated word ringing with unrestrained hauteur.

"I m-mean. ..." Miss Erminson stopped and swallowed nervously before continuing. "What I'm trying to say is, I can't afford to be unemployed."

Jane's expression softened ever so slightly. "I believe there will be a position open on the housekeeping staff. It may be difficult at first learning a new position, but I'm sure you have the intelligence and determination needed to excel."

The former personal assistant stared at the head mistress in stunned silence.

Jane examined her watch, then walked over to the door and held it open. "The head of the housekeeping staff should be in her office right about now. If you hurry, I believe you will be able to get there before she starts her rounds."

Miss Erminson looked at the open door for a few seconds without blinking once before turning to the head mistress and saying in a very subdued voice, "Thank you, Ms. Thompson."

Jane simply nodded as the other woman shuffled through the doorway, then slowly closed the door after her former personal assistant had left. She listened closely until she could no longer hear the retreating woman's footsteps, then leaned against the wall and wilted with relief.

Marie stood and nearly ran across the room. "Jane, is everything all right?"

The head mistress regained her composure as she pulled herself away from the wall. "I'll be all right Marie. I'm just relieved that woman didn't try to call my bluff."

"What bluff?"

"I don't actually have the authority to hire or fire anyone."

"But, you're the head mistress."

"True, but I can only bring my recommendations to the school board. They have the final say in who gets hired or fired."

"Then why did you tell her she was fired?"

A dangerous smile stretched across Jane's face. "I said no such thing."

Marie contemplated the scene to which she had been witness before a more demure grin grew on her face. "I see. You only said her services would no longer be required."

"Just so," Jane answered, the tiniest hint of mischief twinkling in her eyes.

"The only thing I don't understand is why you let her believe you were firing her."

"Despite her faults, I know Miss Erminson is basically a good, decent person. She just needs a bit of an attitude adjustment. I believe she might be able to develop a better appreciation and respect for the housekeeping staff if she had the opportunity to work with them."

Marie's brows knitted with confusion. "I still don't understand what that has to do with letting her think she was fired."

"Basically, I thought she would be more likely to consider such a position if she was under the impression that it was the only option available. So long as there is a change in position without a change of employment status, the board doesn't get involved. If they did get involved, she would most likely have found herself unemployed."

Marie's confused smile shrunk to a small frown. "So, you didn't really want me to be your personal assistant?"

"Of course I do. You'll be perfect for the position."

"But, I don't know anything about running a school."

"You don't need to. Running the school is my job. Your job will be to assist me."

"How would I do that?"

"Well, the first thing you can do is tell me all you know about boys being enrolled here in the past." She glanced at her watch again. "Unfortunately, that'll have to wait until I get back."

"Why? Where are you going?" Marie asked as she followed Jane to the desk.

"Our newest male student is arriving by bus in a few hours and it's a long drive to the station," the head Mistress answered as she shrugged into the tailored jacket that had been hanging on the back of her chair. "If I leave now, I'll be able to get there before he does."

"Oh no you don't," Marie announced, placing her hands firmly on her hips.

Surprised at the sudden change in temperament of the usually shy woman, Jane stopped in the middle of buttoning her jacket and turned her full attention on her new assistant. "What the he--" She quickly reined in her temper. "I mean, what in heaven's name are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about you ... in bed ... sleeping."

To her surprise, Jane found herself sitting in her chair, nearly cowering under Marie's maternal glare by the end of that sentence. The head mistress's natural self confidence quickly reasserted itself, but she almost felt as if she were asking permission rather than making a statement when she said, "That will have to wait until later. Picking up this student is much more important."

Marie's glare faded, making her look more worried than angry. "Mon cheri, if that's the only thing keeping you from getting some well needed rest, then I will pick up l'enfant."

Jane pulled a sleek leather purse from one of the desk drawers that perfectly complemented the black power suit she was now wearing. "That's very thoughtful of you, but I couldn't accept your offer. If even half of what I read in his file is true, he'll be more than a handful, and I couldn't ask anyone else to take on that kind of responsibility."

Marie folded her arms over her ample bosom. "Are you willing to also take on the responsibility of causing a traffic accident when you fall asleep at the wheel?"

"I will NOT allow that to happen!"

Marie drew closer and smiled softly. "I have no doubt of your intentions or your ability to push yourself when necessary. I also admire your willingness to take on this responsibility, but you don't need to do it alone. If you truly wish to have me as your assistant, then let me assist you."

"I assume you have something in mind," Jane stated, doing her best to keep her tone neutral.

"Oui. I suggest we leave together. I will drive while you get some sleep. When we arrive, you will be able to better handle le garçon, and I will be able to help as needed."

Jane allowed herself a moment to smile at the woman who was already feeling less like a personal assistant, and more like a friend.

-= 2 =-

Jane scanned the damp bus station with barely concealed distaste. "You'd think someone would have thought to provide proper shelter here."

Marie pulled her long woolen overcoat closed as a cool breeze swirled about her bare ankles, then peeked around the handle of the umbrella she shared with the other woman. "Is this your first time at a bus station?"

"No, but it has been long enough that I'd forgotten how much I dislike such places. I wish we could have met our new student at a train station."

"Why's that?"

"They're much more civilized." The head mistress paused to cover her nose and mouth with a gloved hand as the bus that had been parked in front of them pulled away. "Plus, we wouldn't have to deal with these wretched exhaust fumes."

Marie nodded in agreement, holding her breath until the noxious stench blended into the general stale odor of the station. "Perhaps we could arrange something like that when more boys are sent to Eastmore?"

"You believe there will be more?"

"I'm almost certain of it, especially when people hear Eastmore has a new head mistress. The only reason a halt was put to the program was because Mrs. Carlton became increasingly ill and could no longer oversee it."

Jane reached into her purse and pulled out a small photo of a young boy with closely cropped chocolate-brown hair. "So, how did our Mr. Roberts receive the unique distinction of being sent to our school while other boys were refused?"

"When you had mentioned his mother's name, I recognized it as Mrs. Carlton's daughter. He must have been the special student about which I'd overheard your predecessor asking Miss Erminson to watch over."

The new head mistress sniffed. "It sounds as if my former assistant was involved a great deal in the head mistress's office."

"To be honest, she was basically running everything towards the end. Almost everyone had been expecting her to take over for Mrs. Carlton when the time came, which is probably why it was such a surprise when the school board chose you instead."

"I admit to being surprised as well, but I'm sure the board had their reasons for the choice they made."

Marie studied Jane's carefully controlled facial features and wondered if there was more she wasn't saying. Unfortunately, before she could think of a discreet way of asking, the bus they'd been waiting for pulled up in front of them.

Jane put the photo back in her purse and gave her assistant a quick smile. "You all ready?"

Marie took in a deep breath. "I'm about as ready as I'll ever be."

"Don't worry. Just follow my lead." Jane turned to the front of the bus as the doors opened. "Looks like it's show time."

It took several minutes for the bus to empty. For a miniscule fraction of a second, Jane felt a twinge of panic when she realized none of the faces she'd seen had matched the boy's photo. Just as she was approaching the open door to the bus to ask the driver some pointed questions, a small figure was being herded out by an older gentleman dressed in a bus driver's uniform.

"Sorry son," the older man said, "but you'll have to buy a return ticket if you want to get a ride back."

"Fine," The boy grumbled as he yanked a duffle bag from the drivers hand. He staggered under the weight of the baggage, but waved his free hand in annoyance when the driver reached out to him.

Although his face was slightly thinner and his shaggy mane was much longer, Jane quickly realized this was the boy for which she'd been waiting and strode up to him. "Martin Roberts?" she asked, the sureness in her tone made it a statement as much as a question.

"Who wants to know?" he growled, casting a baleful eye on the head mistress.

Jane decided to ignore his attitude for the moment and simply answered his question. "I'm Ms. Thompson, the head mistress of the school in which you're about to be enrolled, and this is my assistant, Marie."

"Glad to make your acquaintance, Martin," Marie said as she held out a folded umbrella. When he looked at her hand in confusion, she asked, "Are you Martin Roberts?"

"Urmmm ... yeah," he answered as he accepted the umbrella. "What's this for?"

"You may not have noticed yet, but it's raining at the moment." Jane said, her words somehow even more biting for the calm even way in which they were spoken. "While my umbrella can cover my assistant and I, it's not quite large enough for all three of us."

Martin studied the head mistress for a few moments, blinking drops of rain from his eyelashes, before turning to Marie and holding the umbrella out to her. " 'Brellas is for sissies. I don't want it."

While Jane was still trying to decide if she should correct the boy's grammar or rudeness first, Marie waved a hand at Martin and said, "Non non, mon cheri. You go ahead and hold onto that so you can use it if you change your mind."

Martin frowned, causing raindrops to slide between his brows and run down the sides of his nose, then shrugged and tucked the umbrella under his arm.

Trying to hide how flustered she was feeling at how this meeting had been going, Jane managed to hold her head just a bit higher. "Very well, Mr. Roberts. I see we have much to discuss, but this does not seem like the appropriate place to do so. It will be a long walk to the car." She turned on her heel and said, "If you will follow me," before marching towards the parking lot.

Marie gave the boy a befuddled smile, then became aware she was holding the umbrella that had been protecting both her and Jane, and rushed to catch up with the head mistress.

The boy watched the women as they walked away, then pulled up the bag that had been sliding from his shoulder and trotted after them.

=-=-=

After tucking both her and the head mistress's coat as well as she could around the child sleeping in the back of the car, Marie sat back down and buckled herself into the passenger seat, then whispered, "I think he'll be warm enough now, even with him being soaked to the skin."

Jane checked on her dozing passenger in the rear-view mirror before returning her attention to the slowly moving highway traffic. "Were you able to get the seat belt on him?" she asked in an equally hushed voice.

Marie nodded, then realized the head mistress might have missed the gesture and added, "Yes, although it was a bit tricky shifting him up in the seat so I could fasten it properly. I was half expecting l'enfant to wake up, but he slept through the whole thing."

"I suppose the long bus trip may have worn him out."

"That'd make sense. I'm just surprised anyone would put such a young child on a bus alone."

"Fifteen really isn't that young to be unaccompanied on a bus trip."

"Fifteen?" Marie looked over her shoulder at the boy swaddled in overcoats before turning back to the head mistress. "I would have guessed twelve, and rather small for his age at that."

"Unless there was an error in his records, which I doubt Mrs. Carlton would have tolerated, he turned fifteen a few months ago."

"Perhaps that's why he refused to use my umbrella?"

Jane's brows popped up in surprise. "How does his apparent or actual age relate to him being rude?"

"Well, I think part of what makes him look younger is his size. For some reason, there seems to be a fair amount of people who associate being larger with being more dominate, and thus more masculine. Occasionally, some males may try to compensate for an imagined loss in masculinity by trying avoid anything that might be considered a sign of weakness."

The head mistress slowly nodded her head. "I think I see what you mean. Accepting and using something to protect himself from the rain would run right smack into that."

"Oui."

The car was silent for nearly ten minutes as Jane navigated the bottleneck around the accident that had been causing traffic to slow down. When they were able to resume normal highway speed, Jane thumped the steering wheel with a tightly clenched hand and muttered something under her breath.

Marie tentatively touched the other woman's arm. "Jane, what's wrong?"

"I cant believe how badly I mangled that meeting with our new student."

"What are you talking about?"

"I should have offered to shake his hand or ... or something like that so he could establish a masculine identity. I hadn't considered how he might try to put on a show of bravado if he felt he needed to defend his masculinity."

"I have a feeling he would have acted the same no matter what you or I did. I just worry how he'll react to having to dress and live as a girl if he's already acting this way with no real provocation."

"No!" Jane snapped her jaw shut and checked in the mirror to see if her back seat passenger had been awakened by her shout. When she was convinced he hadn't been disturbed, she returned her attention to driving and spoke more quietly. "I am NOT putting that boy through Mrs. Carlton's 'program'."

Marie smiled as she whispered, "I'm so glad to hear that. At best, it seemed to humiliate the other boys. At worst ... well, I'd rather not go into that."

"I can imagine what the worst would entail. Eastmore is a place for learning, and I can see nothing useful to be learned from such an experience."

"So, if our new student isn't going to be using the school uniform like our previous male students, what will he wear?"

"I'm assuming he has at least one change of clothes in his duffle bag. He should be able to wear that until we can find something more appropriate."

"If his bag is as thoroughly drenched as he is, I have a feeling whatever clothing he may have brought will be as damp as what he's already wearing."

"You have a good point." Jane flashed Marie a grateful smile. "You've already proven several times over I made the right choice when I asked you to be my personal assistant."

The assistant blushed as she murmured a very soft, "Thank you."

"You're very welcome." The head mistress's expression became more serious as she fell into thoughtful silence. A few minutes later, she said, "I think I'll make a couple of calls around the campus when we get back. I'm sure someone somewhere must have something dry, clean, and acceptably boyish."

"That sounds like a good idea. Are you going to let him live as a boy in one of the dorms with the girls?"

"Actually, I was thinking moving into Mrs. Carlton's cottage and bringing him with me."

Marie cleared her throat in a very meaningful way. Jane turned to her for a moment and was surprised by her assistants frown. "You don't think that'd be a good idea? I really can't think of anyplace else to keep him."

"Actually, I think it's an excellent idea. But it's your cottage now, not Mrs. Carlton's."

Jane looked at the woman beside her again and saw her frown had been replaced by an infectious grin. Despite the embarrassment of being caught making the same mistake on the same day, Jane couldn't help smiling back.

-= 3 =-

Jane had just finished moving the student files she hadn't reviewed from her office in the administrative building to the smaller downstairs study in the cottage when she heard the thud of stomping feet, accompanied by some rather creative expletives.

Setting down the file she was just about to start reading, the head mistress followed the noise up the stairs to the guest bedroom recently assigned to Martin. She knocked on the door and asked to be let in, but eventually decided he was either ignoring her or making too much noise to hear. Thoroughly annoyed with the situation, she swung the door open to find a naked boy angrily tearing clothing from a large, antique wardrobe.

Martin squealed with surprise. Before the clothing he had just tossed in the air reached the ground, he managed to dash into the attached bathroom, slamming the door behind him.

Once Jane recovered from her own surprise, she walked to the bathroom and rapped on the door. "Martin, what did you think you were just doing?" she shouted.

"I was looking for my clothes!" he shouted back.

"By tossing clothes that don't belong to you on the floor?"

When the boy muttered something unintelligible, the head mistress sighed with exasperation. "Mr. Roberts, we can not continue in this manner. Please come out here so we can have a civil conversation."

"I can't."

Jane took in a deep breath and let it out slowly as she silently counted to ten. "And why, might I ask, can you not comply with such a simple request?"

"I ain't got no clothes."

Jane thought back to the time she was carrying her last stack of folders through the downstairs hallway as she passed Marie, who was carrying a laundry basket full of wet clothes.

*Oh my goodness,* she thought. *I completely forgot I had told Marie I'd be making calls to find something our new student could wear.* Realizing where the boys clothes probably were by now, she did her best to salvage the situation. "Did I see you with something in your hand when you ran in there?"

Martin mumbled again.

"Mr Roberts, either come out here so I can hear you clearly, or speak up."

"I said yeah, I did."

"What exactly is it?"

"Looks like a bathrobe."

"That should be sufficient to cover you. Please put it on and come out here."

"I can't."

"Why, pray tell, are you not able to put it on?"

"It's PINK!"

The head mistress closed her eyes and massaged the bridge of her nose. "Martin, pink is a color, just like any other color. Please just put the--" She bit off the curse word aching to be spoken. "Just put on the bathrobe on and don't give me any more nonsense."

"But ... but I can't!"

"Martin, if you continue insisting you are unable to follow such simple instructions, I'll be forced to come in there and assist you."

"No!" The boy's shout was filled with equal amounts of shock and fear. "I'm putting it on now. Just don't come in, okay?"

"That sounds like an acceptable request. I will be down in my study, which is the first door to the right when you come to the bottom of the stairs. I expect you to be there in ten minutes. If you do not arrive within the alloted amount of time, I will come back to assist you."

Without waiting for a reply, Jane did a sharp about-face and left the bedroom.

=-=-=

The head mistress tapped her fingernails in a steady staccato in the space she had cleared on her desk as she waited for someone she was hoping could provide some crucial advice to answer her call. On the third ring, a pleasant, familiar voice said, " ¿Hola?"

"Judith? This is Jane."

"Jane? It's so good to hear from you!  ¿Que paso, chica?"

"Things have been a little crazy since I agreed to become the head mistress of Eastmore ... especially today."

"Oh, you poor thing. Tell Tia Judith all about it."

Despite her anxiety, Jane found herself smiling at the affectionate title of Tia (spanish for Aunt) she had given to her friend while they were freshmen in college. "You realize, of course, you're only a year older than me."

"Of course," Judith answered with a mixture of playfulness and maternal patience, "and I'll never let you forget it." After both women chuckled at the familiar come-back, Judith asked in a more serious tone, "So, what's going on?"

"Well, it seems we have a new student enrolling today."

"Would I be correct in guessing there's something unusual about this new student?"

"Not much, actually ... except for the fact that he's male."

" ¿Usted tiene un estudiante masculino allá­? I thought Eastmore only took female students."

"I'd been under the same impression. It wasn't until recently I'd learned of a program overseen by the previous head mistress, where a surprising number of male students were enrolled here and forced to live as female students."

"You know, that sounds something like that paper you wrote for the behavioral psychology course you took in your senior year."

Jane had to think a minute before she recalled the reference. "You mean the one about petticoat discipline?"

" ¡Exactamente!"

"Hmmm. I can see the similarities, but what I wrote is quite different from what appears to have been going on here. Simple punishment to discourage unacceptable behavior wouldn't be nearly as effective as using Skinner's operant conditioning and other behavior modification methods to both discourage unacceptable behavior as well as eliciting more desirable and socially acceptable behavior."

Jane noticed the metallic click of a handle being turned and looked up to see the door to her study slowly opening. "I'm going to have to go, Judith. Thank you so much for your help."

"I'm not sure how I helped, but you're quite welcome. Vaya con dios, mija."

"Y usted también, Tia."

It was only with a great deal of self discipline that the head mistress managed to keep a straight face as Martin shyly walked through the doorway. The robe he wore was almost painfully feminine, as well as being unabashedly, even glaringly pink. She placed the ornate handset back on the equally ornate phone base, then asked in a steady, resonate voice, "Mr. Roberts, have you ever heard of knocking?"

"I did!" the boy shouted. When he noticed the flare of displeasure in the head mistress's expression, he lowered his volume, but his frustration was still apparent. "I tried knocking, but nobody answered. You said I had to be here in ten minutes, and I didn't wanna get in trouble for not being here when ya said I was supposed to."

Deciding his intentions were in the right place, Jane decided to forgo correcting his methods as well as his grammar, and gestured to the straight-backed wooden chair on the other side of her desk. "Please have a seat, Martin."

Once he was seated, the head mistress looked down at the folder in front of her, slowly opened it up, then began rifling though the contents. She looked up a few minutes later when she noticed her newest student fidgeting. "If you will be able to sit still for a few moments, I'll be right with you."

The boy frowned at the softly spoken reprimand, but remained silent.

A few more minutes passed before Jane looked up again. "According to these records, this is the fourth private school you've attended. Does this count sound sound correct to you?"

Jane clenched her teeth when he made a non-commital shrug. Realizing he needed more prompting, she forced her jaw to relax as she said, "Martin, when someone asks you a direct question, it's considered polite to make a verbal response. With that in mind, I will pose my question again. Does this count sound correct to you?"

"I guess so," was the boys nearly inaudible reply.

"I see. Let me try asking a different question. Do you have any idea what will happen if you continue on the course you're currently following?"

"I dunno. I'll get sent to another school?"

The boy nearly jumped from his chair when the head mistress smacked her hand down on the papers she'd been reading. "If these reports from your other schools are any indication of the direction in which you're headed, the only place that would consider accepting you would be a reform school."

"Reform school?"

"Yes. Is that something you would like to experience?"

"No!"

Jane allowed that statement to be followed by just enough silence for the boy to reflect on what they had discussed. "Mr. Roberts, do you know why you're here today?"

The boy looked down at his bare toes dangling a fraction of an inch from the floor, and muttered something into his chest.

"Martin, it's considered polite to look at someone when you're speaking to them."

The boy slowly looked up, the defiance in his tense posture offset by the pain in his eyes. "I said, I'm here 'cause my mom hates me."

*Oh no,* Jane thought. *Does this child truly believe what he's just said?* "How did you come to such a conclusion?" she asked, hoping the pain she felt for a child who could make such a statement didn't show through the calm she was trying to project.

"If she really wanted me around, I'd be goin' to school at home instead of bein' sent out to private schools."

Unable to maintain eye contact and her composure at the same time, the head mistress looked down at the pages in front of her and flattened the creases she'd made in the top sheet as she said, "According to these records, you'd become increasingly violent while you were enrolled at your school at home, finally being expelled for threatening several students with a blunt object and making death threats in the hearing of other students."

"They started it!"

Jane looked up to see Martin had somehow managed to slump down in the chair until his toes reached the ground. "Please sit up properly." Although she spoke very calmly and quietly, there was no doubt this was an order, not a request. When the boy finally complied, she asked, "Who started what, and how was it started?"

Martin folded his arms tightly across his chest. "You don't really wanna know."

Jane held herself slightly more erect. "I most certainly do wish to know what happened. If I didn't, I wouldn't have asked."

The boy gave her an incredulous look, then shrugged and sighed. "It all started when our phys-ed teacher had us playing baseball. I was up to bat when these three guys who always give me grief started yelling at me from the bleachers. They'd been on my case all day, and after I missed the second pitch, I kinda snapped."

"Was this the point at which you threatened these boys with physical violence?"

"No!" Under the head mistress's inquisitionist stare, he added, "Well, yeah, but it ain't the way it sounds."

"I see. Were you holding a blunt instrument, such as a baseball bat, at this time?"

"Yeah, but I wasn't threatening them with it. I was just holding it."

"I believe I'm beginning to see what happened. So, what did you say to them while you were holding the baseball bat?"

"I ... ummm ... well, I kinda told them I'd ... uhhh. ..."

"Grunting is not conducive to a meaningful conversation. If you're unsure of how to express yourself, it would be more appropriate to pause and think about what you have to say, then speak when you're ready."

To Jane's surprise, the boy actually paused for several seconds before speaking again. "I told 'em I was gonna knock the snot outta them if they didn't quit raggin' on me."

The head mistress nodded, then folded her hands on her desk as she leaned forward. "Do you think there might have been a better way in which you could have dealt with that situation?"

"Like what?"

Jane sat back in her chair and studied her new student for a moment. "That's something I propose to teach you."

=-=-=

"And he said he'd follow your program when you told him you'd teach him a different way of reacting?" Marie asked as she scooped the last of the clothes from the washer and tossed them into the dryer.

"It took some discussion after I made my proposal, but eventually he gave me his word to commit himself to my program and follow my instructions without argument to the best of his ability."

"I'm rather impressed you were able to get that level of commitment from a child his age." Marie turned her attention to the dryer and began adjusting the settings. "Is he aware of everything your program will include?"

"He does know I plan to immerse him in an environment radically different from what he's experienced in the past while I teach him new ways of dealing with stressful situations."

Once the dryer started, the personal assistant turned her attention back to the head mistress. "So, how will his environment be radically different?"

"According to what I've read in his records, any time he had gotten into trouble, he was acting in a stereotypically macho manner while interacting with other boys. Part of what I plan to do is remove anything even remotely male from his environment."

"Which is why you asked me not to bring his clothes back to him?"

"Precisely."

"But, if he won't be using anything he brought with him, what'll he wear?"

"From what I could deduce by the clothing Martin had forcibly removed from his wardrobe, Mrs. Carlton at some time had a young, female houseguest staying in the room he now occupies."

"And you plan to have him wearing her clothes?"

Jane gave her assistant a firm, unambiguous nod.

Marie frowned, looking thoroughly perplexed. "I thought you didn't approve of Mrs. Carlton's program because it punished male students by forcing them to wear female clothing."

"Although I anticipate a certain degree of discomfort and even embarrassment initially, my goal in having him wearing female clothing is not to punish him. Rather, I'm hoping the alienness of the clothing, combined with an unfamiliar environment, will be less likely to trigger old, socially unacceptable habits so he can concentrate on learning new, more acceptable ways of dealing with stressful situations."

"Changing his clothing and environment will do that?"

"To a certain extent, that is correct, but in order to help him make changes that will stay with him when he is exposed to his previous environment, I intend to teach him to act, and perhaps even to see himself, in a radically different way.

"How are you going to do that?"

Jane looked at her assistant for a moment before flatly stating, "I intend to teach him how to be a girl."

Marie gaped at the head mistress for a few seconds, then closed her mouth in a firm line of determination. "How can I help?"

It was Jane's turn to gape. "You're willing to help me, even with the way you felt about Mrs. Carlton's program?"

"While I don't completely understand how it will all work, I trust your intentions and believe something positive can come out of this."

Jane reached out and took hold of both of Marie's hands. "Thank you." She looked up in the general direction of Martin's bedroom. "I can feel something beautiful under that child's surly, disreputable exterior, and she deserves all the help she can get to bring that out."

"She?"

The head mistress turned back to her assistant. "Correct. In order for her to be totally immersed in her new environment, everything needs to be changed, including the pronouns we use."

Marie nodded, smiling uncertainly. "I'll try to keep that in mind while I help hi--er, find something to wear."

Jane squeezed the other woman's hands before letting go. "Thank you again. I'll call the kitchen staff in the cafeteria. We've missed lunch by now, but I'm sure they'll have something the three of us can turn into a meal."

=-=-=

To Jane's surprise, the kitchen staff turned out to be much more helpful than she had expected. The soup and sandwiches she requested had somehow turned into an elaborate spread, with a snowy white linen tablecloth spread on the dining room table, real china and more silverware than the simple meal actually required.

Once she had lead the kitchen staff members out the front door (after thanking them for their help and assuring them again that she really didn't mind serving herself), Jane walked back to the dining room and froze, stunned at the transformation Marie had managed in such a short time.

"You look lovely, Martin," the head mistress said as she walked to the head of the table and sat down. Marie nodded across the table to the femininely attired boy as she gracefully sat down.

Martin slumped down in his own chair, giving Marie a nasty look before turning to Jane. "I look like a damn sissy!"

The head mistress looked at her soup, wondering if she would be able to have any before it went cold, then turned her attention to her student. "Young lady, we do NOT use that type of language here."

"I ain't no goddam lady. I'm a guy!"

"Miss Roberts, you gave me your word you would follow my instructions without arguing. Are you going back on your word now?"

"I never agreed to any of this shit!" Martin shot to his feet, nearly knocking down his chair. "To hell with this. I'm leaving!"

Jane found her soup spoon, dipped it in the bowl, then gently blew on the fragrant broth before taking a sip. "Very well. If you can not do what you agreed to do, you may leave."

Martin stared at the head mistress as if some stranger had snuck in and taken her place. "You're really letting me go?"

She took another sip before setting her spoon beside her bowl. "Of course. I can not and will not force someone to do something against their will. If your word is not enough to keep you here, you're free to leave."

"I ... I am?"

"That is correct. The front door is at the end of the hall, right next to the stairs."

"Oh ... okay. Ummm, where's my clothes?"

Jane raised her hand just as Marie opened her mouth. When her assistant remained silent, the head mistress said, "If you are leaving, you will leave just as you are."

"I can't do that. People would think I'm sort of a fruitcake if they saw me dressed like this."

Jane turned a glare onto Martin that would have turned all three bowls on the table to ice. "I will have nothing to do with anyone who refuses to keep their word when things become slightly uncomfortable. If you leave, you do so on your own recognizance. If you're really the man you claim to be, I'm sure you will find a way to manage."

The head mistress watched intently as realization dawned in her student's expression. Eventually, Martin slumped back down, looking totally defeated. In a quiet, no-nonsense manner, Jane asked, "does returning to your seat imply you have decided to keep your word and follow my instructions, even if you feel uncomfortable with them?"

When her student slowly nodded, she said, "Very well, you may consider yourself on probation until I'm convinced you mean to do as you've implied. Now, please stand up."

Fear lit up Martin's eyes. "I thought you said I didn't have to leave."

"Young lady, if I was planning on telling you to leave, I would have said so. Now, please do as you were told." When she slowly rose to her feet, Jane gave her student an encouraging smile. "Very good. Now, for your first lesson, you will learn how to sit properly while wearing a skirt or dress."

-= 4 =-

"Oh Marie, you didn't need to bring me breakfast."

The personal assistant smiled as she brought a covered tray to the head mistress's desk. "Actually, it's more a brunch than breakfast."

Jane looked up at the stately grandfather clock standing in the far corner of her study as it neatly sliced time into seconds with its ponderously swaying pendulum. "It's eleven o'clock already? Where did the morning go?"

"If today has gone like the past week, I'd say it went to teaching Martin to be a girl, acting as her personal tutor, as well as your regular duties as head mistress."

"Has it been a week already?"

"To the day ... nearly to the hour even."

"It's hard to believe Martin's been with us that long."

Marie smiled. "You've accomplished a lot with her in that time. She seems so much like a girl now, it feels strange referring to her as Martin."

Jane returned the smile. " I couldn't have done it without your help, dear. As far as the name goes, perhaps that's what's been holding her back recently."

"I don't understand. How's she being held back?"

The head mistress frowned for a moment, deep in thought. "I'm not entirely certain how to describe what seems to be happening, but it feels as if some of the urgency she had at first is fading."

"Is she refusing follow through with your instructions on how to behave like a proper young lady?"

"No, but it seems as if she's just going through the motions rather than really trying."

"Have you confronted her about the lack of enthusiasm?"

"I've tried, but there's very little I can actually point at to show where she's doing something wrong, and I'm growing tired of scolding her for little, nit-picky things."

"If I may say so, you do look exhausted. Perhaps this will perk you up?" Marie lifted the tray cover with a flourish, revealing a plate stacked with what looked like wafer-thin pancakes beside a bowl of sliced strawberries and another bowl of whipped cream.

"Oh, Marie, this looks wonderful! I haven't had crepes in ages, but I don't think I could even manage eating half of these. Would you mind joining me?"

Marie gave the head mistress a knowing grin. "I had a feeling you'd say that," she said as she lifted the plate to reveal two more underneath, "which is why I came prepared."

Once the crepes had been divvied up and Marie finished chewing the first bite of her brunch, she asked, "So, how's Martin been doing academically?"

Jane looked up from the crepe she was carefully rolling up. "Her test scores from the other schools were abysmal, so I hadn't been expecting much, but her performance so far has continually surprised me. She even managed to finish the homework I had expected would take her the whole weekend to complete a few hours after dinner last night."

"That's quite impressive."

"Indeed."

"So, what is she doing now?"

"After she came to me with her completed homework this morning, she asked if there might be someplace outside she could go to draw."

"You let her go outside?"

"At first I was going to say no, but I felt it might be appropriate to reward her for the effort she put into completing her homework. I decided, since the garden behind the cottage is enclosed and the hedges surrounding it are too thick to be seen through, it'd be safe enough for an outdoor setting."

Marie's fork clattered as it dropped onto her plate. "Martin is outside, in the garden, on a Saturday morning?"

"Yes ... is there something wrong with that?"

"Well, I know you've been careful to only let you and I see Martin, so I thought it might be a problem if the gardener followed his regular schedule of working in the cottage garden on Saturday mornings."

Jane blanched as she whispered, "Oh no." Fear for her student added speed to her pace as she raced to the back of the house. Even before she was out the kitchen door, she was shouting, "Martin! Martin--eek!" The last syllable came out as a squeak when the head mistress saw a middle-aged man in denim overalls opening the door in the rear entrance to the garden.

Martin, who'd been absorbed trying to sketch a pair of squirrels skittering up and down the tree in front her, hadn't noticed the gardener's entrance and only looked up to the head mistress when she heard her name being called. "Yes, ma'am?" she asked in a voice that had become soft and lilting, yet easily heard and understood only after a great many hours of practice."

"I beg your pardon, ladies," said the man at the garden door in a rich tenor. "I hadn't realized you'd be using the garden now. Would there be a better time for me to come back?"

Martin's face turned pale at the sound of the man's voice. She slowly turned to him, then looked back at the head mistress with abject terror.

Jane quickly closed the distance to her student and rested her arm across Martin's shoulders, offering what comfort she could under the circumstances. Realizing the man's question hadn't been answered, she turned to him and said, "No need to change your schedule, sir. I was just about to call Martin--ique into the house.

The head mistress felt her student tense, but was relieved the child had enough sense to not challenge the improvised name change.

The man removed his hat and made a small nodding bow. "I'd heard you'd moved into the cottage here, Ms Thompson. It's a pleasure to finally meet you, as well as you, Miss Martinique," he said as he smiled at the newly rechristened girl.

"It's a pleasure to meet you as well, Mr. ..."

The man donned his hat as he smiled. "Oh, just call me Tom. Everyone else does."

"Then please call me Jane."

Tom nodded and his smile grew. "It'd be an honor and pleasure."

Jane looked at her student, who was still frozen in the place she'd been sitting. "Martinique, is there something you'd like to say?"

It took a second before the boy-disguised-as-a-girl recognized her new name. Standing as well as she could on legs that didn't seem to want to stay under her, she managed a reasonable curtsy before saying in a demure, if slightly quavering voice, "It's nice to meet you, sir."

"It's nice to meet you as well, young lady." He said, giving her a friendly wink. "So, if it's really okay with you, I probably should get to work."

"Of course," said the head mistress as she held out her hand to her student. "Come along, Martinique."

=-=-=

"MartinIQUE?!" screeched the recently renamed girl when they were safely inside.

"Young lady, what did I tell you about using your indoor voice?" asked the head mistress.

"What kind of name is Martinique?" asked the girl in a more subdued but no less agitated voice.

"It's a perfectly acceptable name."

"But it ain't. ..." She caught the look in her teacher's eye and said, "I mean, it isn't my name."

"Perhaps, but I think it would be a good idea for you to start going by the name of Martinique for now."

-= Epilogue =-

"And that is how I got the name, Martinique," the head mistress said as she picked her cup and saucer back up from the table and took a sip of her lukewarm coffee.

"THAT was Jane Thompson? It doesn't sound very much like the other stories I've heard about her."

"Perhaps it wasn't the most accurate retelling of the events as they happened. Part of that might be blamed on the fact that a some of the story is second hand. Another, perhaps larger, part of it most likely is because I'm telling things from my own perspective."

"I suppose that makes sense. It's just hard imagining you in rose-tinted glasses."

Madam Martinique gave just the hint of a smile. "As head mistress, I do try to project a no-nonsense aura. On the other hand, when it comes to recounting my time with Aunt Jane, the memories do seem to have a somewhat rosy hue."

"You called her Aunt Jane?"

"Not at first, but eventually, yes."

"How did that happen?"

Just as she opened her mouth to speak, something started beeping in the folds of the head mistress's skirts. She set her cup and saucer back down on the table and pulled the offending object from a pocket. After reading the tiny display on the beeper, she looked up at Mary and said, "I'm afraid that will have to be another story to be told at another time."



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