Tales of the Season: Charlene's Story - Chapter 13


Another BigCloset TopShelf story. The first full day at Thompson Academy.


Tales of the Season : Charlene's Story
Lisa Elizabeth
Chapter Thirteen
Clothes, clothes and more clothes!
"'Good morning! This is NPR's 'Morning Edition.'" Were the first words Charlene heard the next morning. As she sat up in bed, she just stared at the clock. It was seven in the morning. She heard the click of the lock on her door and Marie stepped brightly into the room.
"Bonjour, Charlene! Comment alle vous? It is a lovely day and you need to be up and about." Marie walked into the closet and looked through the items hanging there. "Ah yes! This will be just right for you to have breakfast. Do not just sit there, you silly girl, get up and into the bathroom. Scoot!"
Charlene jumped out of bed when Marie commanded her to. With a small sigh she headed for the bathroom. "Morning Marie." Was all she said.
Charlene checked for her non-existent beard, brushed her teeth and then took a shower. When she emerged from the shower there was a pink panty and bra set on the counter. "How does she do that? I never heard Marie come in , or the door open or close!"
Entering the bedroom, Charlene saw Marie placing a pair of shoes by the bed. "Very good, Cherie! You are getting quicker with your morning routine. I have laid out your first outfit, you should do your own makeup, fix your hair and be at the table by eight. If you get there early, come into the kitchen, I could use a little help." With that comment, Marie left Charlene to get dressed.
The outfit didn't look too difficult. Charlene started with the garter belt and white hose. She then sat to do her makeup. It went a lot faster than she expected and only had to fix her mistakes twice. Marie had shown her how to correct mistakes without starting over yesterday before dinner. 'That certainly makes this less trouble.' Charlene thought as she brushed her hair and added two barrettes to the sides. Back to the bed, she stepped into a petticoat and tied it at her waist. She took the dress and carefully slid it over her head. It was pink satin and matched her lingerie. A rather tight fitting bodice that gathered at the waist and then a flowing skirt that let just a hint of her white petticoat show below the hem. The back zipper gave her some trouble, but she managed finally to get it up. The only thing still causing trouble was trying to tie the sash behind her back. After trying to get it right four or five times she decided that maybe Joan could help. Charlene added the heart shaped necklace and little heart shaped clip-on earrings, ran a brush through her hair and headed for the door to ask Joan for help. She reached for the door and stopped, 'shoes' was her thought. She quickly went back to the bed, slid on the two-inch-heeled pink pumps and then went to knock on Joan's door.
"One moment!" Came the reply to Charlene's knock. A few seconds later she heard "Come in!" and opened the door.
Joan was still in her robe when Charlene entered. "Hi! I was wondering if you could help me with this bow?" Charlene asked. "I just can't seem to get it tied right!"
"Sure! Turn around." Joan proceeded to tie a proper bow in the middle of Charlene's back. "It just takes practice. You'll get the hang of it eventually."
"Thanks, I better leave so you can finish dressing." Charlene turned to leave. "Joan? Can I ask you something?"
"Sure! What's up?" Joan replied.
"Do you...I mean... Do you think I ...well.... Do I REALLY look like a girl?" Charlene asked with a worried look on her face.
Joan looked over Charlene for a moment with a critical eye, then spoke. "If I didn't know you before, I would only think of you as Charlene. You are a little tall to be dressed as a nine-year-old, but otherwise you are a pretty young lady. Some of your movements and mannerisms are still boyish, so they might give you away. As long as you just stand or sit you should be alright."
The wave of relief was visible on Charlene's face. "Thank you, Joan" Charlene stepped forward and gave Joan a hug. "You have no idea how good that makes me feel. I was afraid that what I saw in the mirror was just a fantasy and that I really looked like a boy in a dress. I better leave so you aren't late for breakfast. See you in a bit!" Charlene closed the door and headed downstairs to help Marie with breakfast.
Charlene's 'duties' for breakfast consisted of setting the table and delivering the juices to the table after Marie had them poured. When she came in with her own glass and Marie's, Jane was standing by her chair.
"Good morning Charlene. My! You look lovely this morning! Pink is definitely a good color for you!" Jane's comment caused the color in Charlene's cheeks to intensify. "Shall we dine?"
Charlene had a rough time through breakfast. Jane would ALWAYS ask her a question right after she had placed a fork of food into her mouth. The first time, she had just replied to the question. That brought on a tongue lashing of why a 'lady' would NEVER speak with her mouth full. It was proper to finish chewing and swallow before replying to the question. Charlene started doing better after that. She would simply finish what she had taken, swallow, pat her lips with the napkin and then answer the question Jane asked. It made breakfast a very long drawn out ordeal. She received another admonishment for taking too large a bite of food and therefore, waiting an unacceptable amount of time before replying to a question. The topics were local and national news items. Some, Charlene had read about the previous night, others were items she had heard on that 'Morning Edition' radio program her clock radio was tuned to. Eventually her two eggs, three strips of bacon and piece of wheat toast were consumed. When Charlene looked at the clock above Marie's head, she was surprised to see that it took forty-five minutes to eat her breakfast! Back home, she would have spent two, maybe three minutes inhaling it and been on her way. However, here, each meal was a production of it's own and each person played a part. Today, it seemed, was Charlene's day to be criticized for everything she did.
"Charlene, I need you in the study please." Jane said as she placed her napkin on the table and rose to leave.
Like a nervous puppy, Charlene followed Jane to her study. After being allowed to sit, Jane spoke to her.
"Today, things get a little tougher. Each day we shall build upon the knowledge that you garnered the day before. Since you already showered and dressed, we can accomplish more this morning. You are going to repeat the dressing exercise this morning. Marie will be there only to assist you if you find something impossible, otherwise you will be expected to do your own dressing, hair and makeup. When you present to me you will be expected to complete a circuit of the room with our good friend here." Jane smiled, pointing to the dictionary on the corner of her desk. "You will then return to your room for the next change. Is this clear?"
The very short, nervous "Yes ma'am.", from Charlene told Jane all she needed to know.
"You have thirty-five minutes to complete your first change, you may go." Jane returned her gaze to the papers on her desk.
Charlene curtseyed before heading for the door. She was just starting to open the door when Jane spoke again.
"Miss Hawkins! Are you forgetting something?" Jane asked tapping the dictionary with her finger.
"Oh!... I... I thought after... Never mind." Charlene blushed and took the dictionary. It took her three tries to complete the circuit of the study without dropping the book. When that was complete she placed the book on the desk and stood before Jane.
"You had better hurry, you only have twenty-seven minutes left!" Jane told her student.
The look of panic on Charlene's face brought a smile to Jane. 'Right where I want her! We should be able to get a lot accomplished today!', she thought as the door to the study closed.
The morning did not go well for Charlene. Racing through the house, she had burst into her bedroom, to find Marie sitting on her bed. All Marie did was hand her a piece of paper with the required outfit listed on it.
"Marie! What do I wear? Aren't you going to help me?" Charlene asked in a panic.
Marie looked at Charlene and motioned her to sit on the vanity stool. After Charlene was seated she said. "Today is to see how much you actually learned yesterday. If you have learned nothing, then Ms. Jane will be very upset, as will I. I do not believe that is the case. I think you have learned a lot from yesterday and will do just fine today. I will give you some verbal guides to get you started, n'est pas?"
Marie told Charlene to pick out clean lingerie and then head to the bathroom to change and remove her makeup. It took a moment, but Charlene realized that she had worn that outfit the previous day. She chose the same lingerie from the drawers and headed for the bathroom. After a quick makeup removal and change into the cream-colored lingerie, Charlene duplicated the outfit from the day before. The easy part was putting on the two white petticoats and the dress. Marie helped by showing Charlene how to zip up the back of her dress without help. The makeup took the longest. All Marie would do is tell Charlene if she needed more of something. Also how to try to correct a problem when she used too much. Finally, Charlene looked in the mirror, approved what she saw and headed for the door.
Charlene, knocked, entered and stood before Jane’s desk. Jane looked up briefly, handed another slip of paper to Charlene and tapped the dictionary. She then returned to her reading. The paper said ‘LATE! 6 minutes!! Walk and continue!’ Charlene took the book, completed the circuit on the second try, curtseyed and took off for her next change.
The process went like this throughout the entire morning. The latest Charlene made it for inspection was twenty-two minutes when she put on the formal and tried to complete her hair and makeup in an evening look. The hair took forever and that tiara! We won’t repeat what she told Marie here, there might be younger ears in the nearby room! She did note that she could now complete the required walk on the first try. This did give her a few more minutes to complete her changes.
After the formal, a quick shower and a repeat of her ‘Dorothy’ costume, then came the ‘little girl’ outfits. Each of these were frillier and shorter and required thicker petticoats. Each change made Charlene look younger and younger. The first was to repeat the outfit she had worn for breakfast. This time she did not get any help with the bow. The next outfit was in yellow, had matching panties with ruffles and ankle socks with ‘Mary Jane’s’. The petticoat made it stand out at a forty-five degree angle and Charlene had trouble finding the stairs on her way to Jane’s study.
The final outfit was even worse! It was a bright candy Pink satin with a scoop neck, puffy short sleeves and a ‘princess’ waist. After the two petticoats the skirt just about laid horizontal, like a tutu. The hem and edges all had two rows of white lace and the matching panties were of what Charlene later learned a ‘Rumba’ style, with rows and rows of white lace adorning her backside. Pink ankle socks with white lace cuffs and black ‘Mary Jane’s’ completed this outfit. Fortunately for Charlene, Marie was helping with her makeup.
"This makeup is the most difficult you must learn, Cherie!" Marie stated as she whisked another brush across Charlene's cheek. "You must make yourself look like you are four or five years old without letting the casual observer notice your makeup. All the colors and shading need to look like you were born with such perfect skin and a few freckles!" Marie took a final look at her handiwork. "Voila! A petite Miss Charlene!" Marie moved out of the way to let Charlene see the final product in the mirror.
The look on Charlene’s face was priceless. She looked in the mirror in shock more than anything else. There sat a ‘perfect’ little girl. All dressed for a party or a family gathering. Charlene thought she was looking at one of her cousins. The resemblance was so uncanny.
"I look like my cousin Lisa at the last Christmas party!" Marie how did you…" Charlene’s voice trailed off as Marie took her hand.
"You need to hurry, Cherie. You might just make this change on time if you do!" Marie coaxed Charlene to her feet. She handed her a pair of little white gloves and a small white purse. "There, it will please Ms. Jane."
"Thank you, Marie." Charlene said as she hurried for Jane’s study.
The trip to the study took a lot longer than you would think. First, Charlene had to figure out how to get down the steps! The skirt stuck out so far, she couldn’t see them and basically had to feel her way down the stairway. The next obstacle was how to keep the blasted petticoats from bunching up between her legs. These seemed to have a mind of their own and no amount of hip sway would keep them at bay. Finally, Charlene reached the study door and knocked. The standard reply, ‘Enter’, was given and she entered the study. She walked to the front of Jane’s desk, curtseyed, and stood in the required position.
Jane looked over her newest student. Rising from her chair she made a closer inspection of Charlene’s outfit. This was the first time this morning she had done more than just notice she was in the room and wave her off to ‘walk a circuit’ before her next change. Not that she hadn’t noticed all the flaws in each outfit, that was not her plan. Today was to push Charlene down to this tired, worn out child-like state and then inform her she was ‘accepted’ into the program at Thompson Academy. Jane walked over to the window and looked out at the flower garden outside. A couple of more minutes silence pervaded the room.
Charlene stood in front of Jane’s desk wondering what was wrong. She had gotten this change done quickly and according to the clock was only one minute late, which was her best time all morning! After waiting what seemed forever, she decided to ask a question. "Ms. Thompson? Is something wrong? Am I not dressed properly or is something wrong with my presentation?"
Jane turned from the window, ‘Now is the time to tell her.’ she thought. "Charlene, I was just trying to come to a decision. I believe that I have and you should be the first person to hear it since it is about whether you remain here or go back to the juvenile detention center in Indiana."
The look of concern on Charlene’s face turned to fear. After a few minutes Jane could see the girl was actually trembling with worry. She finally decided the time was right.
"I have watched you closely these past two days… As I told you before, if I see that you are trying, you may stay. I believe that you are truly trying and that you have been doing your best to follow my orders. Therefore, I have decided that I can work with you and that you will respond to my methods. You shall remain here for the time it takes for you to truly learn how to present yourself in society as a lovely young lady." Jane stated.
"Thank… As a young lady? But… I… only two days… I… " Charlene tried to formulate a protest but the shock was too great. She thought that after two days, all these frilly things would go away and she would return to being Charlie for the rest of her time in this place. Now, she was informed that she was to remain Charlene until she was ready to go home. How long was that, no one had told her, but she remembered it as almost one year. A look of dejection came over Charlene’s face.
"Do not thank me now for accepting you into the formal part of my program, Charlene. It will be most difficult, I have high standards and I expect you to meet them. There will be time for some relaxation, I understand you enjoy horses. We shall schedule riding lessons starting next week, I shall teach you myself. A young lady such as yourself, should learn to ride side-saddle, it is how would you say, much more refined and ladylike than riding astride. (pause) I believe Marie has lunch ready, shall we dine?" Jane headed for the door and motioned Charlene to follow.
Joan had spent the morning completing her report on ‘Post Renaissance Artists and Their Influence on Modern Perceptions of Art’ that Jane had last assigned to her. Of all the reports and essays she had done that topic was the most difficult so far. She looked over the six thousand-word report one final time and laid it in the basket for Jane to review. Looking at the clock she noted it was time for lunch and shutdown the computer. Upon her arrival in the dining room, Marie was busy moving Charlene’s chair away from the table.
"Tante Marie, is something wrong with Charlene? Won’t she be joining us for lunch?" Joan asked.
"Non, non, Mon Petite. There is nothing wrong with mademoiselle Charlene. She will just require that stool in the corner in order to sit for lunch today." Marie answered with a smile on her face.
"Let me help you. I’ll get the stool." Joan went and moved the stool into the position where the chair had been. "Lot’s of petticoats huh?" she shook her head knowingly.
"Oui! Our Charlene makes a very ‘grande petite fille’. Ms. Jane has told her she has been accepted into the Academy and will remain as Charlene for some time to come." Marie replied fussing over the table setting one last time.
"So, I should be prepared when Charlene walks in. I mean, she’s dressed like a four-year-old going to a party, correct?" Joan queried.
"Oh yes! Of course! Was it not the same for you? We always have a ‘little’ party when Ms. Jane finally accepts a new student! In Charlene’s case EVERYTHING is Pink!" Marie replied as she flitted out of the dining room to complete lunch.
Joan heard the approach of Jane and Charlene and assumed her position by her chair. When they entered the dining room, Jane was still congratulating Charlene on doing such a wonderful job of trying, that she had earned the right to start at the Academy!
Charlene entered and it took a lot of Jane’s ‘training’ to kick in for Joan not to burst out laughing. ‘My God! I think that dress is worse in Pink than it is in Yellow!’ The picture of a very tall four-year-old stopped across from Joan and looked confused by the stool. Joan caught Charlene’s eye and motioned to keep her petticoat out and to sit gently on the stool. Charlene nodded and when Jane said everyone should sit, Charlene fluffed out her petti’s and sat on the chair.
A look of shock crossed her face as she jumped back up.
"Is something wrong, Charlene?" Jane asked a mischievous smile on her face. She knew the chair would feel very cold to her newest student’s legs. The response was fairly standard among the new ones.
"No… Uh… Nothing wrong, just… didn’t want to wrinkle my petticoats." Charlene tried to cover by fluffing them once more before gritting her teeth and sitting on the cold leather surface.
Jane nodded her approval and Marie served lunch. It was a light, simple lunch consisting of a small salad, a half of a sandwich and a glass of milk. Marie had placed an overly large napkin at Charlene’s place since she knew about the dress she wore.
Charlene was trying to figure out how to eat her lunch. Due to the dress she was wearing, she was at least eighteen inches from the table and no way to move closer without wrinkling her dress. She finally decided that the safest way to eat Marie’s chicken salad was to open the sandwich and scoop out most of the meat with a fork before trying to hold the rest of the sandwich over the dress.
This worked well, but once again, Jane would ask questions about her research on clocks whenever she took a bite of her lunch. When lunch was finished Marie cleared the table and re-entered the room with a small cake. The cake had one candle on it and a small card that said ‘Welcome Charlene!’
Charlene looked at Marie with surprise. "For me? But… But why?"
"You are now an official student here, non? That calls for a celebration! Now blow out the candle, so we can eat the cake." Marie ordered.
Charlene looked surprised. ‘A cake, for me? It’s like a little kid birthday party or something!’
"Wait, wait! I have to get a camera! I want a picture of you at your first official meal as a student!" Marie bustled out of the room to find her camera. It took but a moment and she returned with a camera ready to take pictures. "One of you with the candle still lit. (Flash, click!) Okay! Now one with you and Joan. Joan walked around and crouched down by Charlene. Yes, perfect! Now, both of you say ‘Frommage’!
That brought out the giggles from the two girls. "Nobody ever asked me to say ‘Frommage’ before!" Charlene laughed. (Flash, Click)
"It is French for ‘cheese’. When Tante Marie gets excited she slips in a lot more French, so you will be learning parts of that language while you are here." Joan whispered to Charlene.
"Now! Make a wish and blow out your candle Charlene!" Marie coaxed.
Charlene blew out the candle while Marie snapped pictures as fast as her camera would allow. Finally, she cut the cake into four pieces under Marie’s watchful eye and camera lens. Marie allowed her to eat her cake without the flash of the camera in her eyes.
When all four were finished with their cake Jane spoke. "Charlene, since you are now an official student here, it is time for your first lesson." Jane turned over a piece of paper next to her place. "Over the last two days you have been tardy a total of one hundred eighteen minutes. That is just short of two hours! This is unacceptable! One should ALWAYS strive to be on time. That is part of the reason you are dressed as you are. The other is the little party Marie wanted to have for you just now. So! In order for you to have time to reflect on what it means to be on time, you will assume a role where time is of little importance. For the next two afternoons and evenings, you shall become a little girl. A girl, as young as you are dressed, is not bothered with such things as time! Joan will explain the rules for this ‘reminder’. If you will excuse me, I have business that requires my attention." Jane placed her napkin, perfectly refolded, on the table and left the dining room.
Charlene sat there stunned. "Become a little girl? How am I to do that? And what about Joan…. OH! NO! Now I’m the one being treated as a four-year-old!" Charlene’s body visibly drooped with that realization.
"You just realized what she meant, right?", Joan asked. "The first rule is that you have to listen and obey everyone dressed older than you. The second rule is that you must hold the older person’s hand whenever you are going somewhere in the house. So, we should begin your ‘reminder’ time. We need to go to your bedroom first. Come along Charlene." Joan held out her hand.
Charlene stood from the stool and looked at Joan’s hand. After a big sigh of resignation, she took the older student’s hand and followed her from the room.


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