Tales of the Season: Charlene's Story - Chapter 21

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Finally! The lo-o-o-o-ng awaited next chapter in this seemingly forgotten tale!
Follow Charlene as she learns a few more of Life's lessons from Jane Thompson.

Tales Of the Season
Charlene's Story
Chapter 21
By Lisa Elizabeth

The next three days were not much fun for Charlene. She knew she had thought of wearing a corset each of the days, in order to help make the one she needed for the parade easier to wear. But since Jane decided to 'tell' her she had to wear one, she was very upset and by the third day…

"Cherie! You are just going to have to learn to control your anger!" Marie stated as she tied a huge bow behind Charlene's 'little girl' dress. (sigh) "I had hoped you were learning that such outbursts and rude behavior, especially when Ms. Thompson has a guest for tea would not be tolerated! It is your own fault Charlene that you are in this situation." Marie came around and tied a perfect bow on the top of Charlene's head. "There! Present yourself to Ms. Thompson." Marie pointed toward the bedroom door.

Charlene looked at Marie with 'sad puppy' eyes. She knew she should have held her tongue, but Jane had pushed and pushed the past three days. The final straw was when Edith White had been over for tea and noticed Charlene's corseted waist. She complimented Charlene on being so committed to attaining a feminine shape. Charlene had accepted the compliment and returned to serving tea when Jane spoke up about how Charlene had practically begged to be allowed to wear a corset every day! Before Charlene could stop herself, she had blurted out "I did not! You TOLD me I had to wear a corset for the past three days! I agreed to do whatever you told me to do and I am just complying with your orders!" The little foot stomp at the end didn't help matters…

Jane's response was predictable. "Are you quite through with your little outburst Charlene? I believe you have been quite rude in front of our guest. I also believe I told you that I expected you to learn a little self control while you were here. I will repeat myself again for you and the benefit of our guest... If you are going to act like a rebellious four-year-old, I will treat you as one! Go to your room, Marie will be along in a few minutes, when you are finished return here. NOW!"

Charlene looked at Jane and Edith, her mouth opening and closing, but no sound coming out. After a moment she set the tea back on the cart, curtseyed and said "Yes, Ms. Thompson," and left the room knowing that she had screwed up big time.

Now, she was ready to return to the parlor. Well as ready as Marie had made her. This dress was pure white satin with very stiff petticoats that stood almost straight out. White tights, white 'Mary Jane's', little white gloves and a little white purse to match. Just as she was to leave the room, she saw her doll. Charlene stopped and picked it up and looked at Marie. "I don't need my punishment to last longer because I forgot something!" and headed out the door.

Marie waited for Charlene to get around the corner before she smiled. It was hard to be gruff with a student after they had been at the academy for a while.

Charlene made her journey as quietly as she could toward the parlor. She was hoping beyond hope that Ms. White had left. However, when she turned the corner she could hear the muffled chatter still coming from the parlor. She stopped just outside the doorway, took a deep breath to calm herself put on a smile and then skipped into the parlor! 'If Jane wants a four-year-old, I'll give her a four-year-old!'

Jane's face took on a momentary look of surprise when Charlene came skipping around the corner. She quickly recovered and put her passive 'hostess' face back on. She watched Charlene skip to a stop, do an exaggerated curtsey and then stand in front of her and fidget, just like a four-year-old girl would. Even Edith White stopped sipping her tea and stared at Charlene.

"You look very nice Charlene. Is there anything you wanted to say?" Jane asked.

"Yes, Ms. Thompson. I'd like to know if Aunty Joan can come and read me a story. I'm not allowed in the playroom by myself." Charlene replied in her little girl voice.

"Yes she may. Joan? Would you ask Marie to come here on your way to the playroom? I'll be along later to have a chat with Charlene." Jane replied.

"Certainly, Aunt Jane! It was very nice to see you again Ms. White, I hope the rest of your travels are safe and pleasant. Joan curtseyed, then took Charlene's hand and led the frilly dressed student from the parlor.

Charlene turned at the door and waved. "Bye Ms. White!" She then disappeared around the corner.

After the student's footsteps could no longer be heard, Edith White turned to Jane. "An interesting manner of discipline I must say!"

"Edith dear, they are here to learn the proper way to behave. If they wish to act as a four-year-old, then they must learn to behave as a four-year-old. I personally do not believe in corporal punishment and doing something like sending her to her room would not cause her to think or consider her actions in the future. By making her act as a young child for the rest of the day, it will cause her to think before she does something in the future. By the time my girls leave here they know that all of their actions result in some sort of consequence."

"Yes… Yes…. I see… I do see where it would be better than sending them to their room. My governess disciplined me in much the same manner, when I was a young gu-u-rl." Edith replied in that 'better than thou' tone she always used. "I am very happy to see that someone in this world still uses a few of the older methods.

Jane raised one eyebrow at this revelation. The rest of the visit returned to the previous topic.

Charlene had played her part as the little girl, even though she had voiced her disapproval, in the proper 'little girl' voice, to Joan. The rest of the morning, lunch and up through afternoon tea had been spent doing pre-school activities instead of her normal, study/ practice activities. This had bothered Charlene, since she had a ballet lesson and was trying hard to complete some of the basic moves without falling over. She decided to broach the topic at tea.

"Miss Thompson?" Charlene asked appropriately.

"Yes Charlene?" Jane replied.

"I know I should not have yelled this morning, but I was very upset that you were telling Ms. White that the corsets were my idea. That is simply not true. Marie told me that you stated I was to wear only the clothes we had bought this week and since I had tried them on while wearing a corset, I would need to wear one every day." Charlene stated.

"I am glad that you realize what you did wrong today. However, I am confused. Did you not question Marie about how wearing a corset on a daily basis might help you wear the tighter one needed for your parade costume? I was in the next room and overheard that conversation, so I felt it would be appropriate to have you wear a corset daily so you could see what it would be like. If I misunderstood, please tell me." Jane replied.

Charlene thought for a moment before replying. "You are correct in that I had thought about using a corset more often in order to get used to it and in order to make it easier to wear the one needed for the parade outfit. But that would have been my choice to do it. You told Ms. White that I chose to wear a corset and that is simply untrue, yet I am being punished for being upset about you telling Ms. White a lie."

Jane raised her eyebrow at being called a liar, although she had to admit Charlene had done it in a very genteel and proper manner. After reflecting on the situation, Jane came to a decision. "I see your point of view, Charlene and will stop the punishment at this moment. I will admit that I felt I was only complying with something you wished to try, but that by telling Ms. White it was your idea, it could be construed as a lie. Your punishment was for your outburst, not for anything else. If you find that I am doing something like that again, please find a more appropriate way to let me know there is a problem. That way we can avoid these little punishments that only serve to delay your education. Is there anything else we need to talk about?"

"How am I going to make up my lost ballet and piano practice time?" Charlene asked. "I'm having trouble with a couple of positions and I really wanted to try and get better at them before my next lesson."

"If I change the rest of the schedule to allow you to make up your piano practice time from now until dinner and then have Joan help with your ballet practice after dinner, would that solve the problems?" Jane asked.

"Thank you Ms. Thompson. May I go change now?" Charlene asked.

"Of course. I will have the monitor on and expect you to be at the piano practicing in twenty minutes." Jane replied.
Charlene curtseyed and left the room. She walked as quickly as possible to the kitchen where she asked Marie to undo the bow and the zipper so she could change quickly. Charlene had learned that a little request for help from Marie went a long way to getting things done in the time Jane Thompson allotted.

This time was no exception and Charlene made her first 'finger warm up' on the piano in nineteen minutes and thirty-five seconds, according to Jane Thompson's stopwatch. "Must have asked Marie to undo the back of the dress" Jane muttered as she noted Charlene's accomplishment. "She is learning!"

The balance of the day was uneventful, as Charlene worked to try and catch up on her needed practices.


Once again things at the Thompson Academy settled into it’s normal routine. Charlene was progressing in her skill as both a pianist and as a ballerina. She was working extra hard at ballet since some of the positions seemed easy for the girls in her class but they were difficult for her. ‘Flexibility was never my strong point’ is what she told herself while trying to stretch at the bar in the practice studio. But eventually she would get the position right and the praise received from her instructor prodded her to do more. The same could be said about all of her studies. Charlene was racing through her studies at a pace that surprised Jane Thompson. It took Jane a lot of extra time to keep ahead of Charlene so that she could challenge her intellect.
The week before the parade Commander Hayden called Jane. “Hi, Aunt Jane! How are things going for the parade?”

“Good to hear from you too, Brent! Everything will be just fine. The girls will be there in complete outfits, ready to perform their nursing duties! You didn’t expect anything less, did you?” Jane replied with a smile.

“Of course not… I mean, I know everything will be perfect if you and Marie have anything to do with it. But are the girls okay with this?” Commander Hayden asked.

“Certainly! They were told. I agreed to it and they do as I tell them, simple as that! That has not changed since you were here, Brianna.” Jane replied using Brent Hayden ‘Academy’ name for emphasis.

“No… I suppose it hasn’t. I look forward to seeing you and Marie on Monday, I have seats reserved in the reviewing box for all three of us.” Brent stated.

“We will be there after the girls are situated on the float. We have the starting point as the Grade school parking lot, correct?” Jane asked.

“Yes, between nine and the start of the parade at ten.” Brent replied. I’ll see you then, Aunt Jane, I love you, you know.”

“I know. Now stop worrying about the girls and go take care of your group.” Jane said with a smile.

The conversation ended and both hung up the phones, each looking forward to Monday’s parade.


“For any of you that listen to NPR and work… Happy Labor Day and even though, John in Wauwatosa spins around in his chair like a top when we say it. This is NPR, National Publ…” Charlene shut off the alarm. ‘How can ANYONE be that cheerful at this hour?’ she muttered to herself. After getting out of bed, she looked at the clock. Why was it set for six? She was still trying to wake up when she heard the lock on the door click and Marie came briskly into the room.

“Cherie! Happy Holiday! Today is the day! Now hurry and shower, we have to get you into your nurses clothing for the big parade! Do not waste time; I will be helping Joan for a few minutes, now hurry!” Marie laid a chemise and corset on Charlene’s bed, and then vanished from the room.

‘Oh yea, it’s that parade day!’ Charlene sleepily turned toward the bathroom, then stopped and turned to look at her bed. It was a new chemise and a NEW corset! This woke her up immediately and she groaned as she turned back toward the bathroom, knowing Marie would be along in a very short time to lace her into the torture device.

Charlene was just finishing rinsing the last of the soap away when she heard Marie open the door to the bathroom. “Hurry up Cherie we have a lot to do. Then a small breakfast and you are off to ‘Marisha Chalet’ for hair and makeup.”

Charlene finally remembered that was why the alarm was set early. They had to be on the float before ten o’clock, ready for the parade. She finished drying, then powdered and returned to the bedroom. When Marie returned, Charlene had already finished putting on the chemise and had hooked the corset together. She had started a simple makeup look, knowing Sandy or Carol would remove it at the salon.

“Oh no, Cherie! You are not wearing a corset until after your hair and makeup. Just dress as you normally would for a trip to ‘Marisha Chalet’.” Marie exclaimed as she started undoing the corset. “I left that out so I could pack it along with your costume. Yours and Joan’s costumes will be in separate bags, I’ll be there to help when you need to dress.”

“You’re going with us today?” Charlene asked a bit surprised.

“But of course! I have a seat with Ms. Thompson on the reviewing stand. You did not think I wanted to see you in the parade?” Marie replied.

“Oh no Marie, that’s not it at all, I just… Well, I’m not used to you coming with us, when Jane puts us through these little ‘exercises’ of hers.” Charlene said.

“I understand, but this is a special time. I did practically remake both costumes, so they would fit you correctly, no? So Jane felt I should be able to see them in all their glory. I do get out for more than just grocery shopping, you know!” Marie kidded Charlene. After Charlene had changed into a different set of lingerie, Marie packed everything into a garment bag and told Charlene to hurry for breakfast.

The standard part of the morning zipped by, maybe it was the excitement of being in a parade, maybe the nervousness of how mean Sandy would be today, but whatever it was, Charlene soon found herself sitting in Sandy’s chair having her hair done in the typical ‘up-do’ that you see in pictures of Florence Nightingale. Sandy had actually been pleasant throughout the morning and was more distracted by the various ‘Queens’ and their courts. It seemed ‘Marisha Chalet’ was THE place for hair and makeup today!
“You seem awfully busy today, Sandy. Is it always this way on a parade day?” Charlene asked, trying to keep the conversation away from her and on the general topic of the day.

“Yep kiddo, it always is. We’re the ‘Official’ hair, nail and makeup shop for the Labor Day Parade every year. Today is a little busier than normal since you and Joan are here. Jane doesn’t always have her students in this parade, but when the opportunity presents itself, she likes to get you involved a little with the locals. It’s good PR for the school and you get a chance to get all dressed up and look pretty! Isn’t that a wonderful thing for you, Charlene?” Sandy smiled at Charlene.

“Umm… Yes, I think you are right, it would benefit the school, knowing we helped the local R.O.T.C. group, especially in this day of so much unrest in the world. Maybe we could actually hope for world peace!” Charlene put on her best plastic smile for Sandy.

“I hope for world peace! That’s how I became ‘Cranberry Queen’ this year.” came a comment from the next chair.

Charlene and Sandy looked over to see who had made the comment. There sat Misty Hansen.

“Hi! I’m Charlene. So you are the Cranberry Queen, what was the competition like?” Charlene replied, hoping to change the topic.

“Hi! I’m Misty Hansen the current Cranberry Queen and those girls over there are my court. The competition was OK. You know, long gown, swimsuit, the question actually was ‘Would you like to have world peace if possible?’ Like, I couldn’t believe they actually asked that question! So like everyone said ‘Well yea!’ But like, I guess I gave a better answer than the others did, because I like was crowned Queen and the others are my court. How about you? Like, why are you here today?” Misty asked Charlene.

“I’m part of the R.O.T.C. float. We are filling in since they don’t have enough girls in the unit. I get to look like ‘Florence Nightingale’ when she was nursing wounded soldiers.” Charlene replied. “My classmate, Joan, over with Carolyn, gets to be a World War Two nurse.”

“So like, are you part of the Rot-see group?” Misty asked.

“No, we attend the Thompson Academy and Ms. Thompson agreed to have us fill in since it involved a tribute to our servicemen and women. I guess she thought it would help us think about all the soldiers and the support people over in Iraq.” Charlene replied.
The girls quieted down for a few moments, when Sandy left to get something, Charlene looked at Misty. “I really think this is all so Sandy has someone new to torture on a holiday!”

Misty laughed at the comment. “Like, I must admit, the hair style is quite elaborate. How about the costume?”

“Worse! It involves a very tight corset. I haven’t figured out how women did anything wearing one of those. I can hardly breathe when I’m in it.” Charlene replied.

Sandy returned and quickly finished Charlene’s hair, then moved her over to a nail station where another girl took over and did a quick change of color. Then on to Carolyn for makeup.

“Hi Caro! How are you today?” Charlene asked as she sat down.

“Just fine Charlene. I see you have been paying attention in class your makeup looks very nice. Just right for a trip to the beauty shop. Now let’s get you cleaned, scrubbed, and redone in more appropriate makeup for a parade.” Caro said as she started applying makeup remover to Charlene’s face.

Charlene watched carefully how Caro did her makeup she knew that Jane would probably quiz her on it after the parade was over. A darker foundation was used to simulate being outside for long periods of time, then the colors were put on brighter and covered more area than for normal daily wear. The blush and lipstick deeper in color than Charlene normally wore. Carolyn explained that it was like doing theatrical makeup, overdone when close up but just right from thirty feet away. In no time at all, Charlene was ready to change into her costume.

“Marie is back in Changing Room Two, Charlene. She said to just send you back and she would help you change.” Carolyn said as she removed the protective cape from Charlene.

“Thank you Caro, see you in a bit.” Charlene replied as she stood and headed for the changing room. She did a little ‘finger wave’ at Misty as she passed by.

Charlene knocked and waited at the changing room door. Marie called ‘enter’ so Charlene did. She knew it was a special day, but she was not ready for what she saw when she entered the room.

In the middle of the room was a small trapeze type structure. Marie was standing there smiling at Charlene waiting for her to get over the shock of seeing the portable ‘lacing’ bar she and Jane had bought so many years ago for just this type of situation. After seeing Charlene’s surprise leave her face Marie decided it was time to speak.

“Hello Cherie! I see you have noticed my portable lacing bar, no? How else did you think we would get your waist to the right size? After all, your corset must close all the way or your dress will not fit!” Marie stated and then turned to gather the garments necessary for Charlene’s transformation into ‘Florence Nightingale’.

It seems that Charlene had heard that argument so many times before that she just stripped to her panties, put on her under-corset chemise and walked over to the lacing bar to grab hold. There was no point in arguing with Marie, she had never managed to win yet!

The dressing hadn’t taken as long as Charlene had expected. It turned out that by wearing a training corset for so many days, her waist wasn’t that far from what was needed for the costume! This corset didn’t feel like she was being cut in half. It was tighter than the ones she had been wearing, but not too bad. After walking around the room a few minutes and then sitting to catch her breath, Charlene was ready to finish dressing.

Marie was a whirlwind of activity and kept Charlene so busy that she never realized she was finished and ready for her place on the R.O.T.C. float. A last look in the dressing room mirror revealed a lovely young nurse of a bygone era. Modest bosom, narrow waist, flared hip, hair up and out of the way. Even the nurse’s cap and the white pinafore screamed ‘girl’. Charlene smiled at the image as Marie walked up behind her.

“Come along Cherie! We must be on our way; it is almost time for you to be at the parade.” Marie said as she rested a hand on Charlene’s shoulder. “You look absolutely lovely and fit the part perfectly!”

“Thank you, Marie, but all of this… is yours and Sandy and Caro’s doing. I couldn’t look like this no matter what I did!” Charlene replied.

“Nonsense Mon Petit Chou. You are under all of the clothes and makeup, on anyone else they would hang like rags!” Marie beamed at her young charge. With nothing more to say, Marie hurried out of the room to check on Joan.

The two girls walked up to the R.O.T.C. float. It had a large banner on the side proclaiming ‘Caring for servicemen through the ages…’ Sponsored by your local ROTC. They saw a man directing the activity around the float and recognized him as Commander Hayden.

“Commander Hayden?” Joan asked as she and Charlene approached the float.

Brent Hayden turned and looked to see who had called. He saw a WW II Nurse in a crisp Khaki Green uniform with proper seamed stockings and low heels and a perfect picture of ‘Florence Nightingale’ standing demurely next to her. “Umm… Oh, yes! Joan and Charlene, right? I see you are… well are those the costumes I left with Marie?”

Joan let out a small giggle. “Knowing Tante Marie, I think the original outfits are probably being used as cleaning rags. I know all the undergarments are new.” Charlene just blushed at the mention of ‘undergarments’.

“I think you may be right. You both look lovely. Just give us a few more minutes and your partners will be ready to help you onto the float. I’m certain that Marie probably has you in a girdle or probably worse.” Commander Hayden replied with a smile.

“Corset!” Charlene muttered under her breath.

“Then you definitely need help getting onto and off of the float… Umm… Charlene, right?” Brent Hayden replied.

“How did he hear me?” Charlene whispered to Joan. Joan shrugged back ‘no idea’.

“I have very good hearing Charlene. It’s both a help and a curse. Sometimes I hear things I really didn’t want to hear. Mostly it just means I can hear things most people can’t. Don’t worry though; I won’t report anything you say to Jane Thompson.” Brent smiled at the shocked look on both girl’s faces when he mentioned Jane.

Joan looked at Charlene and made a zipping motion across her lips. Charlene just nodded and they looked at Commander Hayden.
Brent started laughing. Once he was able to regain his composure, he said, “Don’t worry so much. Jane and Marie will be in the reviewing stands and I don’t believe they have that good of hearing that they could understand you as you ride past. Just look like you are tending your wounded soldier and everything will work out just fine, I promise!”

Both girls nodded their heads and then followed Brent Hayden around the ROTC float. On the other side of the float was a set of portable steps and two ‘soldiers’ waiting at the bottom of the stairs.

As soon as the two boys saw Commander Hayden, they snapped to attention.

“At ease, both of you. I’d like to make the introductions and then you can escort these ladies to their proper places on the float. The one with the wrapped head and the stick for a crutch is John Williams, John this is Miss Charlene Hawkins, she will be your nurse.” Brent paused while John came over and kissed the back of Charlene’s hand and then stood next to her.

“The World War II pilot over there is Darren Johansson. This is Miss Joan King. She will be your nurse for the parade.” Again, Brent was pleased to see that Darren kissed Joan’s hand and then stood next to her.

“Alright, I’m going to head over to the reviewing stand after checking on our driver. I want to hear nothing but glowing reports from these girls about what gentleman you were or….” He left the sentence unfinished and received a pair of ‘Yes Sirs’ from the two boys. Satisfied, he nodded his head and went to make sure the driver of the float had everything he needed.

“Or what?” Charlene asked, more to herself, but loud enough for the two boys to hear.

“Or we get to clean the barracks and do an extra ten laps around the football field everyday for a month.” Darren replied. “He told us we had best be perfect gentlemen. That he was having you girls help us out as a favor from an old friend and didn’t want it messed up.”

John just nodded his head in agreement.

After a couple of minutes small talk, like where the school was and what it was like, the boys helped the two nurses up onto the float. Climbing onto a float was difficult enough without wearing a corset or a slim pencil skirt, so the portable steps were handy. Once on the float, Charlene and John headed for the front of the float. Since this was to honor nurses through the ages, she would be at the front representing the earliest nurse. Joan was back about two-thirds of the way, between a World War One and Korean War M.A.S.H. couple.

“So…. Umm.. How long will you be at the… the Academy?” John asked hesitantly.

“I hope to go home by next summer, unless something else happens. At least that is what I was told when I started there.” Charlene replied trying not to let on why she was at Jane Thompson’s school.

“Oh! So are you like allowed to go out or anything? John responded.

Charlene looked at John as if he had just grown a second head. “Are you asking me out?” She asked.

All John could do was blush and nod his head.

Now Charlene was totally lost as to what to do. But she thought it was cute the way he blushed and tripped all over himself to ask her out. ‘How do I let him down without sounding like a B***h?’ Charlene thought for a moment, and then replied. “How old do you think I am?”

“15, maybe 16?” John said.

Charlene laughed. “I’m sorry, I’m only thirteen. My parents don’t let me date yet, so I’m positive Ms. Thompson won’t let me date either! It’s the makeup and this corset and padding, it makes me look older than I am.” She smiled at John to let him know it was ok.

John was staring at her, his mouth doing a fish impersonation. “But… I… thought you were… umm… ah… I’m sorry!” John was stammering himself deeper into a hole and didn’t realize he should stop.

“John? Settle down! It’s okay, honest! I’m really quite flattered by your compliment.” Charlene said trying to settle her ‘float partner’ down.

After a few minutes of small talk, one of the parade organizers came by and told them they were next in line. Everyone on the float took their places and put on the safety straps provided. John was lying on a cot while Charlene stood next to the cot holding some clean cloths. Her job was to look at John and then wave to the crowd. She would then remove a cloth tied around his arm and replace it with one that she was holding, giving the illusion of changing the soldier’s bandage.

The parade lasted forty-five minutes and Charlene changed the bandage twenty times during the parade. She even managed a big smile for Marie when they went past the reviewing stand. Marie, of course, was taking pictures as fast as her camera would allow, trying to get as many of Joan and Charlene as she could.

Eventually the parade ended and the float came to a halt. The safety straps were undone and the boys helped their ‘nurses’ off the float. John just looked at Charlene after helping her to the ground and said. “Thank you for filling in, and I’m sorry I embarrassed you earlier. Wow! You’re really only thirteen?”

Charlene was laughing as Joan walked up beside her. “Yes John, I’m only thirteen. I told you I’m flattered you think I look older, but I don’t believe Ms. Thompson would let me date anyone, not just you.” Charlene then went over and gave John a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for being a gentleman.”

Joan saw the exchange and looked up to see Marie and Jane headed toward them, with Commander Hayden right behind. “Charlene!” She nodded her head toward the oncoming group of adults.

The two boys turned just as the trio of adults arrived.

“Anything bad to report about these two?” Commander Hayden asked Charlene and Joan.

“No sir! They were perfect gentlemen as far as we were concerned.” Joan stated. Charlene nodded her head in agreement.

“That is good to hear. Ok, you two are dismissed. Go help everyone get the float ready to depart for the garage. We may need it for the Flag Day parade.” Brent Hayden motioned to the rest of the group that were taking down flags and stowing anything loose on the float, so it wouldn’t blow away on the trip.

“Joan, Charlene, I would like to personally thank you for doing this for me and my team. The float took ‘First Place’ in the ‘Patriotic Theme’ category this year. We will be having a party to celebrate this on Saturday during our normal meeting. I would like to invite the two of you to the party as our way of saying thank you.” Brent told the two girls.

Both Charlene and Joan looked at Jane. Jane just nodded her head, meaning they should accept the invitation.

“We would be honored to attend Commander Hayden. If you would let Ms. Thompson know when and where, Charlene and I will be happy to attend.” Joan nudged Charlene and they both gave little curtsies.

“I’ll call on Thursday with the time and place of the party, if that is okay with you, Jane?” Brent asked.

“That will be fine. I am certain the girls are looking forward to being away from my academy for a little while. You know how girls like to dress up for such special occasions.” Jane smiled at Brent and the girls.

Both of the girls groaned inwardly. This was just going to be another of Jane’s little tests they both just knew it. Then Commander Hayden spoke.

“When we have a party it is usually a casual dress affair. Our members will be in fatigue pants and pullover shirts. I wouldn’t want the girls to show up in long gowns when everyone else will be casually dressed.” Brent Hayden stated.

“I’m certain the girls will be suitably attired. It’s time to go girls. I think both of you would like to change out of those period costumes on such a warm afternoon. We will talk more Thursday Commander.” Jane replied. She nodded her head toward Commander Hayden and then headed off in the direction of her car. Marie, Joan, and Charlene followed behind.

Once in the car Marie turned around to talk to the girls. “Mon Petites! I was so proud of both of you, you looked absolutely exacte’ment! It was like looking at a piece of history in the flesh! I have many pictures of both of you. I’ll have to start a scrapbook!”

“I agree, both of you did extremely well today.” Jane said in between Marie’s praises. “I was going to suggest a stop for lunch at the Country Club, but I think we should go back to the academy and let you out of your costumes. Maybe we can go out later to celebrate.”

Charlene took as deep a sigh as her corset would allow, at least she wouldn’t have to go out to eat in this outfit. ‘I couldn’t eat very much in this corset, anyway.’ She thought as the car travelled closer to the academy.

The next week was ‘normal’ for the Thompson Academy. Studies, piano and ballet, changes of clothing and makeup and a visit from Edith White. This time Charlene apologized to Ms. White for her outburst on her last visit. The apology was accepted and Charlene and Joan excused themselves to return to their studies.

Saturday came and after breakfast, Jane let the girls know that they would be leaving at eleven for the celebration at the ROTC meeting. ‘Dress appropriately.’ Was Jane’s last comment.

Charlene had searched her closet for an hour trying to find something ‘casual’. Eventually she decided on a sundress in a pale yellow. This choice meant a change in lingerie and hosiery. “More clothes changing!” Charlene mumbled to herself as she changed. Throwing the back of her hand to her head, she sighed and looked at the ceiling “When will it all end?” She said in a melodramatic flourish. Then giggled to herself and finished changing for the party.

The girls arrived at the party and discovered they were the fanciest dressed of everyone. The two ROTC girls were in jeans and t-shirts, while all the boys were in khaki pants and ROTC polo shirts. Joan and Charlene stood out from this crowd.

That didn’t stop John and Darren from coming over and escorting the girls to the refreshment table and then introducing them to the rest of the unit. When the ‘DJ’ started playing music (Just an old tabletop stereo with a cassette player). The boys asked Joan and Charlene to dance. Knowing they should accept, but not knowing how to dance, meant that Charlene was rather nervous.

“Just follow what the other girls are doing.” Joan whispered to Charlene.

“Ok.” Came the short reply. Actually, dancing with John wasn’t bad. All the music was popular and therefore no touching between the dance partners. This took a lot of pressure off Charlene and by the third dance; she was starting to enjoy dancing.

The three hours flew by as every member of the squad danced with Joan and Charlene and when Commander Hayden called the last dance, he actually played the disco era hit. Everyone moaned but got into the dancing anyway.

After saying goodbye to everyone and once again thanking the commander for inviting them, the girls got into the car and fell asleep on the journey home.

To Be Continued...


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