Tales of the Season: Charlene's Story - Chapter 16

Synopsis:

Another BigCloset TopShelf story. Another day, in the life of Charlene!

Story:

Tales of the Season : Charlene's Story

By

Lisa Elizabeth

Chapter Sixteen

"More Lessons to Learn!"

‘Good morning! This NPR’s Morning edition!’ woke Charlene from her dreams. "Damn thing!" She cursed as she looked at the offending clock radio. She was just about to hit the off button when she remembered that Jane Thompson would be quizzing her over breakfast about some of the stories. "She’ll probably ask me how many Koala Lampurans it takes to carry a sick boa constrictor to the vet!" She mumbled as she got out of bed.

Heading for the bathroom to take care of her morning ritual, Charlene stopped at the door and looked back into the bedroom. "No nightmares last night! Thank goodness for that!" She then turned and closed the bathroom door to use the potty.

While she was in the shower checking her legs for stray hairs she heard Marie’s cheery voice. "Good Morning Cherie! I’ll just leave your fresh lingerie on the counter."

"Another day, another bunch of F****** frills!" Charlene muttered to herself. She finished her shower, dried and dressed in the bra and panties Marie had left for her and walked out into the bedroom to get dressed. Marie was no where to be found. There was an outfit on the bed with a note laid out on it.

The note read,

‘Cherie!

Today you are to dress yourself, do your own makeup and hair and be at breakfast by eight o’clock. I know you can do this!

Marie’

Charlene looked at the outfit and again at the note, ‘I’ve worn this outfit before. It was rather simple hair and makeup.’ With a big sigh and a scratch of her head, she started to dress.

It was a simple ‘school girl’ type outfit. A white blouse, a blue and white plaid skirt, white tights and black ‘Mary Jane’ style shoes. Not too hard to put on! Charlene pulled her hair back into a ponytail, trying to do as good a job as Marie had done, that took three tries and it still didn’t look quite right. Finally satisfied, she moved on to the makeup. Foundation, blue eyeshadow, a little blush, mascara and a soft pink lipstick. She put on a pair of gold hoop clip-on earrings, a gold necklace and watch then looked at the clock.

"Three minutes to get to breakfast! Take that Jane Thompson!" Charlene headed out of her room and down the stairs.

When Charlene entered the dining room Jane, Joan and Marie were all standing behind their chairs waiting for her to arrive. Marie peeked at the clock and gave her a big smile.

Jane Thompson took a quick look at her watch, smiled at Charlene and said, "Good, shall we dine?"

Everyone sat to one of Marie’s wonderful breakfasts. The banter was all from Jane Thompson this morning. She asked the normal questions about the events in the paper and newsworthy items heard on the radio that morning. Charlene was surprised when Jane asked if she knew how many natives of a Koala Lampuran village it had taken to carry their sick boa constrictor to the veterinarian at the national zoo. She also asked why it was such an important thing to do.

"I believe it took seven men from the village to do that. It seems that they keep the boa constrictor as a sacred animal, although many believe that the health of the village is because the boa eats the rodents in the area and thereby limits any potential disease outbreaks." Charlene replied in her best Jane Thompson voice.

"Just so! Very good Charlene. When we finish here, I will see you in my study, we need to continue your education and I would like to discuss my plans for you." Jane replied in schoolmistress mode.

The rest of the meal was eaten, as always, with more questions and answers. It was Joan’s turn to help with the dishes, so when Charlene was finished, she followed Jane to her study.

Charlene stood in front of the desk awaiting the ok to sit.

"This meeting will be brief! Today we will see what you have learned since you have arrived.

I have a prepared list of clothing changes for you, I expect you to go through them as you have each day, but you will have no help from Marie or Joan. You will report here as quickly as possible for evaluation, complete a circuit of the study with the book and then continue on to the next outfit on the list. All outfits must be completed before we have lunch. Do you have any questions?" Jane asked as she handed Charlene the list from her desk.

Charlene looked over the list, stifled a sigh and replied, "No ma’am".

"Your time begins now." Jane said while looking at her watch.

Charlene looked up startled, since she had been lost thinking about ‘How in the hell am I going to do this!’, when Jane told her she could go. Gathering her thoughts, she grabbed the dictionary, did a circuit of the room and left for her first change of the morning.

"I should have a very frustrated, rather irritated, young man on my hands by lunch today." Jane thought to herself, as she noted the time on her pad. "We will see what he has learned about self control…"

*****

Charlene headed for her room with the paper in her hand. As she entered her bedroom, she rechecked the first outfit she was to wear. "No sense in wasting time, I could end up with another Fu***** report to write! I have worn this outfit every morning since I got here! How do they clean this stuff every day?" she wondered as she looked over the list of clothes.

The routine was standard now. First, strip completely, then cream colored bra, panties and garter belt. Next the cream colored stockings and two white petticoats. Then do hair and makeup. The makeup took the most time. Charlene remembered that this was to be a younger look. It took a long time to get the colors and shading as close to what she could remember Marie had done in the past. Finally she put on the Cream dress with all the lace and argued with the back zipper until it was all the way up. Matching shoes and purse and she was ready to see Jane.

The swish of the petticoats were pretty common to Charlene now, so she had no problem getting to Jane’s office. She knocked and waited.

"Enter!" Was all that was heard through the door.

When Charlene entered, Jane barely looked up from her reading, waved at the dictionary and held out a paper for Charlene. This was a little confusing to Charlene, there was no inspection for this outfit.

Charlene took the paper, lifted the dictionary, made her round of the office in two tries and left. All was done while Jane seemed occupied with something else.

The next change was the same skirt and blouse as the last two days, with only one petticoat. The hair and makeup were going a little faster for Charlene now so she was only a couple of minutes late.

Once again, Jane barely looked up and handed Charlene another slip of paper. This one said ‘Late!!’ at the top of it, along with the next outfit listed.

Another race up the stairs and another change into a daytime office look, this time Charlene made it back to the study in time! Again, Jane just waved the slip of paper and pointed to the dictionary.

The next outfit was the formal, prom outfit. This one took Charlene longer due to the complex hairdo, with no assistance from Marie. Charlene wasn’t certain she could ever get used to thong panties, but they were ‘required’ for this outfit. Even with holding the skirt higher than she knew Jane would allow, she was still way late for her inspection.

Charlene entered the study, expecting to be waved at and ignored but instead, Jane stood and walked around the desk to look at Charlene.

"Very lovely, Charlene! Yes, very lovely. I believe you are starting to get the hang of this. I note that your tardiness is less than half of what it was the last time we did this exercise. That is improvement in time management. You still need to practice your hair and makeup skills, but that too will come along as you progress in the program. I want you to go into the kitchen and prepare a tea. I will page Marie and let her know to help you in the kitchen. Please serve in the parlor. You may go!" Jane walked back around her chair and sat back down.

Charlene just stood there in shock. ‘First, it’s hurry, hurry, hurry. Then she acts like I’m her fu***** servant! Just what does she want out of me?’

"Charlene, I said you may go!" Jane repeated.

"Wha…? Oh! Yes ma’am." Charlene curtseyed and headed for the door.

"Charlene? Aren’t you forgetting something?" Jane asked tapping the dictionary.

"Damn! I mean… Sorry! I mean… Oh … I don’t know what I mean." Charlene stuttered as she grabbed the book and made her walk around the study.

Jane watched her complete the circuit. She couldn’t let that slip of tongue go, she had to push just a little bit more. "Miss Hawkins! I will remind you that such language shall not be tolerated while you are here. It is uncouth and not very becoming for a young lady of breeding and class to use profanities at any time. While you are attending my school, you will control your tongue. Do I make myself clear?"

The anger flashed in Charlie’s eyes for a split second, only to be tamped down quickly by sheer inner strength. "Yes Ms. Thompson, perfectly clear, will that be all?"

"We will discuss your reprimand over tea. You may go." Jane replied in full head mistress mode.

Charlene held her lips tightly together while she curtseyed and left the study. All the way down the hall she mumbled to herself. ‘Blasted bi***! On my fu***** case all the time, GOD! I’d like to haul off and… No! Charlie that would be EXACTLY what she would want so she could send you off to jail for a few years for assault. Bide your time, one of these days that old coot is gonna screw up and then…’ Charlene hit the kitchen door with the heel of her hand and it flew open with a bang.

When Marie came into the dining room she could hear the slamming of her kitchen cabinets through the closed door. She quickened her pace a little and then slowed to enter the kitchen softly. "Charlene! Is there a problem with the cabinet hinges? I believe they were oiled just a month or so ago, no?"

Charlene was just about to slam another door when Marie spoke. She froze in place and then turned beet red. She shut the cabinet gently and turned to look at Marie, cheeks still glowing. Standing there silently for a few seconds, Charlene decided there was something very interesting on the floor a few feet in front of her.

"I take it from the noise in here you are upset about something?" Marie finally asked.

A big sigh was the first response, then Charlene finally decided to look at Marie. "I… well… I… (sigh) I’m just so damn… Umm… Darn… upset at Ms. Thompson right now, I could spit! She has me doing this stupid dressing game and then she doesn’t even look at me when I show up, she just hands me a piece of paper and ignores me. Then when I get down there late from doing this formal getup, she treats me like I’m her slave or something and should do her bidding in making tea and serving it for everyone! I’m NOT a SLAVE! I’m … I’m… I’m really, really pissed, is what I am!" Replied Charlene in a rush of words and emotion.

"I see. So you decided to take it out on my cabinets? I think there should be a better way to control your anger at Ms. Jane." Marie replied in a mildly sarcastic tone.

Charlene’s cheeks flushed red again and the floor became interesting to look at. "I’m sorry Marie. I didn’t mean to damage anything, I just wasn’t… wasn’t thinking clearly, I guess…" Charlene’s voice trailed off to nothing.

Marie opened a couple of cabinets, removing the items necessary for a proper tea. Charlene had gotten most of the items out, but Marie always liked to be certain the tea was perfect, at least while training a student. "It does not appear you have done any damage. But in the future I expect you to treat my kitchen with a little more respect!" Marie waggled a finger at Charlene. "Now! Let us get this proper tea ready so you are not in trouble for being tardy to tea time!"

"Thanks Marie." Charlene said as she smiled at Marie and started to arrange the tea trolley the way she had seen Joan do before.

Charlene told Marie she could finish setting things up and that she should head for the parlor. Ms. Thompson had asked Charlene to serve everyone tea and figured Marie was included.

About three minutes after Marie left, Charlene headed for the parlor trying to remember how to have a tea party! The only thing going through her head was ‘A-a-a-a-a VERY happy un-birthday to you! …And You! A-a-a-a Very happy un-birthday to you! …And You!’ Over and over like a singing Christmas toy that never stops. Whatever it was, by the time she arrived at the parlor door she had a smile on her face, most likely from thinking about the tea party that Alice had had.

As she rolled the cart to a stop in the parlor, Jane spoke. "You appear to be happy this morning, Charlene. It is good to see a smile on your pretty face. So much better than a scowl or a frown, don’t you think?" It was a rhetorical question as Jane looked to Joan and Marie for support of her observation.

"I agree Aunt Jane. Charlene looks genuinely happy today." Joan replied.

"Just a silly thought, I was remembering something I saw with my little brother, that’s all." Charlene replied, trying to change the subject before she broke into giggles. "Shall I pour, Ms. Thompson?"

"Yes please. " Jane continued some inane lecture about gentility and refinement. Charlene tuned her out as she went about pouring a ‘proper’ tea. She remembered to ask if they wanted sugar and almost lost her composure when asking ‘One lump? Or two?’ She managed to get through the entire tea without breaking up laughing and even remembered what everyone had when she asked ‘More tea?’ The hardest part was when Jane asked for only a half of a cup. Charlene could just imagine cutting one of the cups in half like in the Disney movie. That almost made her laugh out loud. She had learned from her ‘Dorothy’ incident that it would not be wise to do that sort of thing again.

When the tea was finished Charlene placed everything back on the tray and headed for the kitchen. As soon as she got through the door, she broke into a giggle-fit.

Marie entered less than a minute behind and found Charlene trying very hard to keep from laughing out loud. "What is so very funny mon petite?"

"Oh Marie, it was so hard to get through tea without laughing today! I constantly had visions of the Mad Hatter’s tea party in ‘Alice in Wonderland’" it was then that Charlene started laughing so much she had trouble talking for a few minutes. I kept hearing them singing ‘A-a-a-a very happy un-birthday to you! And you!’ all through the time I was in the parlor. It was so difficult to pour the tea and not break out laughing. I hope Ms. Thompson doesn’t find out, I’d probably be in big trouble!" Charlene realized and covered her mouth. Just as quickly she realized it was a rather girlish gesture and quickly put her arm down at her side. "Umm-m-m… I’ll just clean up here and put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher." as she got busy trying not to think about how much of an effect all this petticoat punishment was having on her.

Marie caught the move but said nothing. When Charlene had finished putting everything away she spoke. "Sit down Cherie, we need to talk for a moment." Marie motioned to a kitchen stool. After Charlene settled, she continued. "You need to learn to relax a little and enjoy your time here. There is nothing wrong with a little laughter, even if you think it is silly. I believe Ms. Jane and Joan would have enjoyed the fact you had that tune running through your head during tea. It would have better explained your smiling at odd moments during Ms. Jane’s talk. Now I think she may be confused as to why you reacted the way you did. We shall see."

Charlene looked a little worried for a moment. "You don’t think she’ll make me dress up as a four year old again do you?" she asked.

Marie giggled a little, "No, Cherie. She would not punish you for thinking something like that, but I am certain she will watch you a little closer for a while to see if that smile was just a personal thought or something more mischievous! I will let her know that it was just a silly thought that ran through your head. That will calm her fears and might make things a little easier on you." Marie patted Charlene on the hand and smiled.

"Umm… thanks Marie. I better help you finish cleaning up here, I’m sure Ms. Thompson will want me back for more clothes changing before lunch." Charlene replied and started to clear the cart of the used items from tea.

It didn’t take them long to clean up from tea and Marie told Charlene she should leave and return to Ms. Thompson for her next assignment. That was another of those long walks down the hallway, Charlene was just wondering what silly thing she would have to do next to keep this crazy lady happy… "Now I’m even thinking of myself as a ‘she’! Good Grief, Charlie Brown!"

"Enter!" Was Jane’s reply to the knock on her door. She was expecting Charlene so there was no surprise when she came in and stood before the desk. "Much better at serving tea today, Charlene, you may get the hang of doing it properly yet. I am certain you will receive more practice during your stay here. Now for your next change of clothes, you will need assistance since it is something new. Marie has gone upstairs to prepare for your arrival. You may go!" Jane returned to the papers on her desk.

Charlene thought for a moment then went to the shelf behind Jane, took the dictionary and made her customary circuit of the study. She placed the book back on the shelf. While quietly leaving the study, Jane spoke.

"Very good, Charlene. You are learning some of the rules." Jane nodded toward the shelf. "I will see you when Marie is satisfied you are ready."

Charlene nodded and closed the study door. ‘I wonder what that was all about?’ she thought as she headed up the stairs toward her bedroom.

Her wondering did not last long. When she entered her bedroom, there was Marie fussing all around the vanity, making sure everything was in it’s proper place. "Marie?" she asked.

"Oh, Cherie. It is good you arrived so quickly! We have just enough time before lunch to make you absolutely beautiful! Now quickly, undress and take a shower. You will need to wash your hair, with the hairpiece in place, it has to be wet to style correctly. Now shoo!" Marie made a shooing motion at Charlene and herded her towards the bathroom door. "Your fresh lingerie is already on the counter and make certain you use the dusting powder liberally before you come back into the bedroom."

Charlene headed into the bathroom to do as Marie instructed. Fifteen minutes later she walked out of the bathroom smelling of lavender with a towel sort of wrapped in a turban around her wet hair. Her lingerie consisted of a pair of white satin bikini cut panties.

"Over here, we need to get you into your clothes first." Marie motioned toward a bar that was fixed to the sides of the closet. "We will place this around you and then you will hold onto the bar while I lace it up!" Marie showed Charlene a satin lined corset with a lot of boning.

"Marie! What IS that thing?" Charlene asked, looking at the contraption full of satin, lace, garters and various strings.

"This? It is just a corset! It will give you a very girlish figure and is necessary in order for you to fit into your dress. Now come along we have very little time for delay!" Marie replied walking over to Charlene and starting to wrap the garment around her. "Hold this up so I can do up the hooks." Marie proceeded to hook the front of the corset together with what seemed to be a hundred little metal hooks. When she was finished, she laced a cover over the hooks and tied it off with a bow.

"Over to the lacing bar, now reach up and hold onto the bar while I tighten up the rear laces." Marie instructed Charlene.

Charlene reached up and held on to the bar suspended in her closet door. "Like this?" she asked.

"That is fine, now let me tighten the laces for the first time." Marie responded and proceeded to snug the laces of the corset from the top to the bottom. When she was through, she tied a bow and took a breath. "Lower your arms and walk around… How does that feel?"

"Not bad, tight. I can’t get a real deep breath and it’s going to be tough to bend over!" Charlene replied, testing the strength of the corset with a deep breath.

"Back to the bar Cherie! We have to tighten it again." Marie instructed.

"Again? Marie…" Charlene gasped.

"Shush little one! We have to bring the edges of the corset together. It is only another inch or so, it will not be so bad!" Marie replied with a smile. "First we insert these…" Marie inserted two silicone breast enhancers in the bottom of the corset bra cups. Then she tugged whatever loose flesh she could toward the middle of Charlene’s chest and voila! Instant cleavage! "Now we are ready to retighten those laces!"

Charlene wasn’t too sure if it would be bad or not but went back over to the bar and held on while Marie retightened the laces two more times. "Marie! I can’t brea..oomph!" was all she got out as Marie gave one last tug on the laces before tying them off in a knot.

"Breathe very shallow and a little faster than normal, Cherie. You will adjust to the corset in a couple of minutes. Step over here to the vanity and we will have you sit while you get used to your corset! You have a wonderful shape now, this dress will be tres magnifique on you!" Marie was beaming over the fact that she got the sides of the corset to meet.

Charlene was moving carefully over to the vanity stool and discovered that he couldn’t just flop down on the stool as she had before. It took some planning and then having to lower yourself carefully on to the stool in an upright posture, almost like sitting at attention.

While Charlene was getting used to the corset, Marie started rolling a pair of stockings and sliding them up Charlene’s legs. She explained that once in a corset, a lady will require a lot of help to even dress herself.

"Marie? (breathe) Why am I… (breathe) in a corset?" (breathe) Charlene found it difficult to talk and breathe while in this new contraption.

"So your dress will fit you properly, of course!" Marie replied, as if it was the most logical reason in the world. "Now stand and hook your stockings to the garters."

Charlene stood and worked for almost three minutes trying to get the stockings hooked tightly as Marie had taught her. When she completed that task, she was out of breath and had to sit back down.

"Not so easy, being a proper lady, eh Mon Petite? You rest and I will start on your hair." Marie stated as she pulled out a box of curlers.

"Oh no! More torture!" Charlene moaned half joking.

"But of course! It takes a lot of work and a little suffering to be beautiful!" was Marie’s reply.

Marie proceeded to gel and roll Charlene’s hair into a mass of curls. By the time she finished, Charlene’s breathing had returned to an almost normal tempo. "Now we let the curls set while we do your makeup and get you dressed."

Marie started with what she called a ‘stage’ makeup base, it was used on the face, neck and upper body down to the top of the corset. It gave a very pale look to Charlene’s tanned body. She then changed to a different cover-up for her arms and the backs of her hands. When she was done with this, she applied a translucent powder all over the makeup to ‘set’ it.

Starting with her eyes, she applied a dusty rose to the lids and proceeded to lighten the shadow to an almost white by the time she got to Charlene’s brows. This effectively opened her eyes into a more innocent look. Brown eyeliner and a light application of mascara completed the eyes. Marie brushed and trimmed Charlene’s eyebrows, then used a medium brown pencil to even the color of her brows and extend her brow to the outside of her eye crease. She also added a little upward flair at the corner of each eye, giving the illusion of a more oval shaped eye.

A matching dusty rose blush and lipstick finished off the look. When Charlene looked in the mirror, she was stunned. She looked like a completely different person, skin coloring was changed and the makeup gave her a very innocent yet slightly older look, like she was sixteen instead of fourteen.

"You like?" Marie asked.

Charlene took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I… I look so different. Like it’s someone else sitting here."

"That is the whole point! You are Charlene! And now we shall finish dressing you and do your hair." Marie replied with a smile. Come! We will hurry, so that we are not late for lunch."

Marie went to the closet and took out a beautiful rose colored, strapless sheath dress. She had Charlene step into the dress and it slid easily up her now corseted body. Before zipping the dress she reached for two little hooks that were sewn into the side seams of the dress and hooked them into a couple of eyes on Charlene’s corset, under her arms. Marie then zipped the dress up and hooked the top above the zipper.

"Voila! Plus parfait!" Marie exclaimed. "Ah! Shoes!" She went back to the closet and pulled out a matching pair of three-inch heeled sandals stooped down to strap them to Charlene’s feet. "There, you are. Stand and walk around the room for me."

Charlene rose, with difficulty, and proceeded to carefully walk around the bedroom. She had worn heels this high before, but these were almost like there was nothing attached to her feet. After completing a circuit of the room, she tried to back up to the vanity stool but kept catching her shoe on the hem of the dress.

"You will have to lift your hem to back up to a chair, Cherie. The dress has a small train to it and is a forward only dress. Like so…" Marie told Charlene as she showed her how to sweep the tail of the dress up and to the side so she could see where she was backing up.

It took Charlene a few minutes to manage holding the skirt, breathing and trying to locate the vanity stool without passing out from lack of breath. She managed to sit down again and it took a minute for her to regain her breath.

"Marie? Does the corset have to be this tight? I can hardly breathe!" Charlene asked.

"Oui, mon petite. You must be that size to fit into the dress. You will get used to the corset shortly. Now, let us finish your hair so we can show Ms. Jane how lovely you are." Marie replied while starting to remove all the curlers from Charlene’s hair.

Marie became a whirlwind of activity using a brush, a comb and bobbie pins to arrange the mass of curls into a very elegant up-do. The curls cascaded down from the crown of Charlene’s head and there were two small curls that were left loose and hung in front of her ears. Marie handed her two, chandelier type clip —on earrings and a matching teardrop necklace which Charlene put on as she had been taught. A final touch of hairspray and a little spray of ‘Angels’ perfume and Marie felt she was finished.

A big smile crossed Marie’s face as she stood back to look at her creation. "Cherie, you are very beautiful!"

Charlene looked in the mirror. Staring back at her was a very pretty girl. It didn’t look at all like she expected. Gone was any trace of ‘Charlie’, instead there sat a pretty young lady of approximately sixteen, sitting very properly on a vanity stool. "I look like I’m ready for a prom or something." Charlene stated.

"A prom, or a night out for a concert, or an opera perhaps?" Marie replied. "Do you not like?"

"Oh, no Marie, I just look so-o much different, there isn’t any of me in the mirror anymore!" Charlene replied.

"No, Cherie. You are still there, what I have done is just makeup and clothes, what you see is just a façade for the world to look at." Marie replied. "Now! It is time for you to see Ms. Jane. I must get to the kitchen and help Joan finish preparing lunch."

Charlene stood there staring at the image in the mirror. When she moved the imaged moved, she knew it was her reflection but the image was so-o-o dramatically different it shook her inside. After a few minutes of looking, Charlene started shaking and finally had trouble getting her breath. She sat on the vanity stool for a minute to calm herself. "God, Charlie, this has to be the fu***ng worst situation you have ever gotten yourself into. Look at this, you’re shaking and if you don’t get control soon, you’ll start crying. I just can’t let that bi*** win, not ever!" Charlene’s eyes turned a little harder as her resolve to not give in to Jane Thompson returned to the surface. "Well, if she wants a prom queen… I’ll give her a prom queen!" With that last comment, Charlene checked her makeup, to be certain she hadn’t messed it up and then started for the bedroom door to make her way to Jane’s study.

Jane Thompson turned off the security monitor in her study and closed the cabinet door that hid it from view. ‘I always hate having to watch my students during these first few days, but I really need to know what is going on in their heads so I know when to push and when to back off. I believe Ms. Hawkins is ready for a little more pushing.’

The trip to the study took Charlene a full five minutes. Navigating the steps in a corset and a long gown, was a new experience. The addition of three-inch heels slowed her even more. Having gotten to the hallway, Charlene stopped for a minute to catch her breath, then proceeded toward Jane’s study.

"Enter!" The familiar command echoed in Charlene’s ears as she opened the door and took her position in front of Jane Thompson’s desk.

"Ah! Ms. Hawkins. You look absolutely stunning in that outfit. That corset gives you a very nice figure and that dress is a very good color for you." Jane could see the blush in Charlene’s cheeks even through the stage makeup. After a moment of silence Jane spoke. "Aren’t you going to respond to my compliment?"

"Oh! Umm… Thank you Ms. Thompson." A startled Charlene replied.

"That’s better. A girl as pretty as you had best get used to compliments. You shall receive many over your time here." Jane told the cross-dressed teen. "Yes, you are very pretty and will draw a fair amount of attention from both males and females about your appearance."

Charlene’s heart started thumping like a sledgehammer. ‘MALES? What males?’ she thought as the adrenaline pumped through her. She was in ‘fight or flight’ mode now, wondering how quickly she could move in this outfit.

Jane saw the widening of Charlene’s eyes and pressed on. "Yes, a little corset training and some work on your poise and deportment and you will have every teenage male within fifty miles bowing and scraping at your feet. Won’t that be something to see?" Jane let her last comment sink in and saw the scared look turn to fear. It was time to back off a little.

"But that is for the future, right now we need to teach you how to move in that lovely outfit you have on. I have the dictionary right here for you, I know how hard it is to bend to get it off the shelf in a corset. We will work on the ‘ladylike’ way to do that at a later time. Right now, please…" Jane pointed to the book on the corner of her desk. Jane had seen the panic on her student’s face when she mentioned dealing with ‘boys’. She simply stopped and waited to see if she would have to remind her student to take slower more controlled breaths. When she saw the panic subside, she just waited to see how long it would take Charlene to realize what she wanted done.

Charlene’s mind had been racing with all types of thoughts. ‘She expects me to deal with boys! Dressed like this? Oh my GOD! What… what… (pant, pant) wait, remember short shallow breaths, that’s it slow down, calm yourself. She’s just trying to get to you, Charlie, you know that. Just let it slide off, now what was she saying…" Charlene saw Jane pointing to the dictionary on the table. She may not have heard the comment but she knew what was expected.

The trip around the study didn’t take very long to accomplish. Charlene completed it on the third try. The corset changed her balance and restricted her movement enough that after a little trial and error she did the circuit with a smile on her face. ‘That will show her. She probably figured we would be here forever!’ Charlene told herself. She took the book off her head and placed it back on Jane’s desk.

"Very good! It is now time for lunch, if you would freshen up, I will meet you in the dining room." Jane nodded toward the study door.

"Yes, Ms. Thompson." Charlene attempted a curtsey in the tight clothes and exited as quickly as she could.

Charlene let out a big sigh after the door closed. Well, as big a sigh as she could manage in a corset, anyway. She proceeded to go to the downstairs powder room, wash her hands and check her makeup. It was a good thing Marie had packed her small purse, a little powder and lipstick and she was ready for lunch.

Everyone was waiting at the table when Charlene entered. She quietly took her place by her chair and waited for Jane to yell at her for being late.

"Shall we dine?" was all she said. No jabbing comment, no sarcasm, just ‘Shall we dine?’ This confused Charlene for a moment, between her confusion and the restriction of the corset and dress, she was the last one to sit.

Marie brought out plates of food already prepared for each person. Charlene noticed that hers was less than half of what Joan, Jane and Marie had on their plates. Just as she was getting depressed over not only being in a corset, but now looking like she would starve, Jane spoke.

"Charlene. You have probably noticed you have a much smaller portion of food than the rest of us." After a nod from Charlene, Jane continued. "You are going to be on a different schedule for meals this afternoon. Due to your wearing a corset, you will find that you can no longer eat large quantities of food at one meal. Therefore, you will be eating a small meal every few hours. You will have sufficient nourishment throughout the day, it will just be spread out over more frequent and smaller meals. I will caution you to not over eat at any one meal, as you will be very uncomfortable for quite some time afterwards."

"Oh! I was wondering why my portion was smaller. I thought you might be punishing me for something." Charlene replied.

"Oh no dear! Perish the thought! I told you when you arrived, no physical harm would come to you. I consider withholding food or drink to be a cruel and unnecessary thing to do. There are many other ways to let you know you have done something incorrect." Jane replied.

With that comment, the meal started. Jane talked about feminine behavior and what young girls did when she was a young girl. Every second or third sentence she would instruct Charlene to take smaller bites and to chew longer, so that she would not finish her meal before everyone else.

Eventually everyone had their fill and Charlene was surprised to see that there was still food on her plate. She tried to eat one more bite but after swallowing it, found it to be a mistake. "I guess you really can’t eat much in this corset!" She said in a low voice.

Jane didn’t hear all of the comment, but she heard enough. "Yes, the corset will do two things. It will help to teach you correct posture and it will help to shrink the amount that you eat at any one time. Joan discovered those two things when she first started wearing one, didn’t you?"

"Yes Aunt Jane. It became a habit to sit properly and to eat in smaller portions. The latter has definitely helped my figure." Came Joan’s reply.

"Just so! You have learned so much in your time here, Joan. I am certain Charlene will learn just as much! Now, this afternoon, I believe, you have piano practice, Joan?" A ‘yes ma’am’ was the reply. "Good! Then I shall have time to instruct Charlene on some of the finer points of being a proper young lady. Charlene, meet me in the study when you are finished here." Jane wiped her mouth with the napkin and left the dining room.

"Proper fu****g lady indeed! I can’t breathe in this da** corset! How am I going to survive her ‘exercises’!" Charlene grumbled to Joan.

"Best watch your language, Charlene! You know Aunt Jane can appear at the most unlikely times!" Joan stated. "I don’t think you will be doing anything too strenuous this afternoon. At least I didn’t when she had Marie tie me into one of those!"

"Hmph!" was Charlene’s reply. (sigh) "Well, I guess I shouldn’t sit here too much longer. Probably better to show up before she expects me! I couldn’t eat anything else in this corset anyway."

Charlene rose and placed her napkin on the table. After finding her center of gravity she started carefully toward the door. Just before leaving, she looked at Joan, who was still seated at the table and smiling.

"What?" she asked. Wondering what the smile was all about.

"Oh, nothing. I was looking at you getting up from the table and remembered how awkward I felt the first couple of times I had to wear a corset. It’s easy now, but different when you first wear one." Joan replied.

"Oh! Well, I hope I don’t have to wear this thing too often! I’ll see you later." Charlene said as she restarted toward the doorway out of the dining room.

*****

"Enter" Charlene was used to that one word phrase now and proceeded carefully into Jane’s study. Not being sure what type of ‘exercises’ she had planned, she could only let devices of torture pass through her mind. She proceeded to her usual spot and found it much easier to assume the proper position with the corset keeping her rigid.

"Please sit." Came from Jane as she motioned to the chair. "This afternoon you are not going to be changing clothes but will be learning a few of the ‘feminine arts’ as I like to call them. When wearing a corset one cannot do much physical activity so we must construct more genteel and demure ways of teaching you things you will need to know."

Charlene sat on the edge of the chair with a blank look on her face. ‘This lady could be a politician! I have no idea what she is talking about other than I won’t be running up and down steps changing clothes all afternoon!’ There was a long silence while Charlene tried to figure out what Jane had said. She realized Jane must want an answer! "Yes ma’am." Came the only safe thing she could think of.

"Very well! Follow me, Charlene." Jane rose from her chair as if she too wore a corset and lead the way to the parlor. After showing Charlene where she wished her to sit, she produced some material and thread, along with an embroidery hoop and a set of instructions. "This is a counted cross-stitch pattern. It derives it’s name from doing just that, counting the crossed stitches. This one is simple and I expect you to have it nearly completed by afternoon tea. You will have to take a short break for a snack, as I told you, you will be eating smaller meals but more often while you are in a corset. Any questions thus far?"

"I don’t know anything about cross-stitch, Ms. Thompson." Charlene replied.

"I did not think so, I will show you the basics and then I am certain you will be able to catch on from there. If you have a question, Marie or myself will be able to assist you." Jane replied, getting into full instructor mode. The next ten minutes were spent showing Charlene how to thread a needle and how to properly stretch the pattern in the hoop to hold it tight. Then after a few stitches were done properly, Jane showed her how to tie off the thread so it wouldn’t come undone. After Jane was satisfied, she left Charlene to work on her project.

Charlene had worked on her cross-stitch about fifteen minutes, when Joan entered the room.

"Hi! Would you mind if I practice the piano?" Joan asked.

Charlene looked up from her work, a bit startled. "Umm.. No. That’s fine, I’m just doing this project as my afternoon assignment. A little music would be nice."

"Don’t say that until you hear me play!" replied Joan with a laugh.

"Oh no! You played so well on Sunday. How could you think that?" Charlene asked.

"That was a piece I’ve practiced for three months, I should be able to play it. I was taking piano before I came here, so I had an advantage over the last student. But Aunt Jane figured out I was sandbagging after only a couple of lessons and has challenged me with a lot tougher music since. You may not like the quality of my practice on this new piece." Joan explained.

"I’m certain it will be fine. I need to get back to this, it’s harder than it looks." Charlene replied.

The next hour was spent with Charlene trying to complete her cross-stitching while being distracted by Joan’s playing of a new piece on the piano. At the end of the hour of practice, Marie bustled into the parlor with a tray and a small sandwich and drink for Charlene. While Charlene munched on the sandwich, Marie looked over the project in the embroidery hoop.

"This is your first how you say, handy-craft, no? The stitches need to be a little tighter. See here how the thread lifts away from the fabric? Try to stop every six or seven stitches and retighten your material, it will make getting the stitches tight easier. It is very good for your first try at needlework!" Marie handed back the hoop after showing Charlene an easy way to tighten it.

Charlene finished her sandwich and about half of her drink. "I can’t drink any more Marie, unless you want to loosen this corset?"

Marie smiled. "Not until after dinner, Cherie. Your corset training is for a reason, just like everything else that you do here. Ms. Jane says you stay in the corset until after dinner, I will not change her rule."

Charlene let out as big a sigh as her corseted chest would allow. "Then I guess I should return to my needlework. Ms. Thompson wants me to finish this by tea time."

"You should take a short break and powder your nose Cherie. It will be much easier if I assist you in the large powder room down here." Marie stated as she rose and pointed toward the side door.

"Alright, Marie. I was wondering how I was going to use the bathroom. I guess you were right when you said a lady needed help with everything when they wore a corset." Charlene rose, with difficulty, and headed toward the large downstairs bathroom.

Talk about a problem! Charlene ended up having Marie help her remove the formal gown in order to use the rest room. Marie rechecked the laces on the corset, just to make sure they were tight enough. Then Charlene had to redress in the slip and formal before returning to the parlor to work on the cross-stitch project Jane had assigned her. With a sigh and a minute of rest to catch her breath, Charlene returned to the needlework at hand. ‘I wonder if women ever got anything done wearing one of these da** things!’

The afternoon seemed to go by very quickly. The needlework kept Charlene’s attention well enough that she was startled when Marie entered with a cart for afternoon tea. As Marie set out the cups and arranged the light snack, Jane and Joan entered the room.

"Ah! I see you are still hard at work on your sewing project. May I see it, please?" Jane asked.

Charlene was surprised at the gentle and almost caring tone of Jane’s voice. It took her back for a second. She finally caught herself and handed the hoop to Jane saying, "I believe I will have the project completed by dinner. I hope that will be soon enough." Charlene then put on the sweetest smile she could manage.

Jane noticed the slight delay and the false smile that accompanied her comment but decided it was better to have Charlene faking a pleasant attitude than to have to reprimand her for unladylike behavior. "That will be fine. I see you are doing very well with this pattern, the stitches are nice and tight and the colors are simply wonderful. If you finish by dinner we will have to frame it and hang it in your room!"

Charlene took back the offered needlework and looked at what it was saying in cross-stitched letters.

"The Golden Rule! Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You!"

She hadn’t really looked at what the saying was on the material, She was just doing the stitches in the order the instructions told her. She had finished all the text and was finishing some flowers and borders when tea arrived. Charlene had been concentrating on keeping the material and her stitches tight so Jane would have one less thing to complain about that she had not taken the time to read what she had been creating. She sat there thinking for a minute about this saying. It was the first time that Charlie had thought about all the things that he had done to get him into his current situation as Charlene.

(sigh) "Maybe having this on the wall will make me think before I do something stupid." Charlene muttered as she continued her work on the needlework.

When Marie brought her a small snack at four thirty, she had just completed the last stitch and was holding up the finished product to get an overall look at it.

"All done, Cherie?" Marie asked as she brought in a small snack.

"Just finished Marie, what do you think?" Charlene turned the cloth around to show Marie.

"Let me look at it while you eat. Now let me see…" Marie handed a small plate to Charlene and took the cloth from her. A minute later she spoke. "This is very good for your first time. Are you certain you have not done this before?"

"Never, Marie. This is the first time I have ever done anything with a needle and thread." Came the reply.

"Do you need to show this to Ms. Jane?" Marie asked.

"Probably. She said we could frame it and hang it in my room when it was finished. Do you really think it is good enough?" Charlene looked at Marie, expecting some type of criticism.

Marie noted in Charlene’s voice the hesitancy of past failures, she had seen it so many times over her years with Jane. She looked over the piece one more time and said, "I should think it would hang proudly, not only in your room, but in your parlor at home, once you are able to return there."

A genuine smile came to Charlene’s face, it was one of pride. ‘Marie thinks I did well!’ she thought. "Then I should take this to Ms. Thompson for her inspection. I hope she likes it as much as you do, Marie. It would make this day a little better and make this corset more bearable!" Charlene giggled a little and then headed for the parlor door and Jane’s study.

The knock on the door surprised Jane, she hadn’t asked anyone to come to her, so she wondered what was wrong. "Enter!" The door opened and Charlene entered carrying her needlework project. "Yes Charlene? Something I can help you with?" Jane asked.

"The project is complete, Ms. Thompson. I figured you would want to inspect it when I was through. I hope it meets your standards." Charlene stated as she handed the fabric across the desk. Figuring to make a few points with this tyrant of a woman, she then went and picked up the dictionary and made a walking circuit of the study.

"Very good for your first attempt! Shall we frame it?" Jane asked.

"Yes ma’am, please." Charlene replied.

"Collect your things from the parlor and meet me in the student study. This is best done there. You may go!" Jane replied.

Charlene left Jane’s study and returned to the parlor. She collected everything related to the cross-stitch project and then headed toward the student study. When she arrived, Jane was already there, setting up a few items on a corner worktable. For the next thirty minutes Charlene drilled holes, nailed a frame together, and then was shown how to properly stretch her finished project onto the frame. Once that was completed, the framed project was placed in the provided outer frame, along with a hangar and the project was now complete.

"If you will take this to your room and hang it, I need to talk to Marie. Will you need any help putting the nail in the wall?" Jane asked.

"No Ms. Thompson, I think I can do that myself." Charlene said.

"Very well! Charlene, you have until dinner as free time." Jane said as she left the student study.

‘Free time? I wonder what free time is?’ Charlene wondered as she watched Jane exit the room. "Well, whatever it is, I better clean up in here, otherwise I’ll never get out of this corset!" she muttered to herself. After putting the tools away and throwing out the scraps from the project, Charlene headed for her room to hang her completed project. She did remember to take a hammer and nail with her.

The hardest part of the trip was climbing the stairs! Not only was the dress restrictive and the corset kept her from getting decent breath, but she also had her hands full with the picture frame, hammer and nail. This caused her to stop at the top of the steps to catch her breath. While she was standing there, Joan came out of her room.

"Hi! How’s it going today with Aunt Jane?" Joan asked as she shut her room door.

Charlene held up one hand for a moment. "Just… catching… my breath…!" Replied Charlene. Anther moment and she continued. "I finished the cross-stitch project and Ms. Thompson helped me frame it." She handed the finished frame to Joan. "Now I have to hang it in my room and then I have ‘free time’ until dinner. Whatever free time is around here…"

"Very nice! Are you sure you never did this before? This is like so-o much better than my first one!" Joan complimented Charlene. "Can I help you hang it?"

"Umm-m… Sure! Come on in." Charlene opened her room door and led Joan in.

Hanging the picture took longer than Charlene could have ever imagined. After trying it in ten different locations, she and Joan decided the best place for it was above her headboard, where it replaced a nondescript landscape picture. All this took over an hour and they both heard the knock on the door and turned at the same time.

Marie entered after knocking. She looked at the two students and then saw where Charlene had decided to hang her completed picture. "It looks very nice there Charlene! Where is the picture that was hanging there?"

"Right here Marie. We can’t find a place for it to hang. It doesn’t look good anywhere else. What do I do with this picture?" Charlene asked, showing Marie the framed landscape.

"Just set it over here by the door. I’ll take it and put it in storage until you finish your time here and then return it to that spot." Marie replied, pointing to a small table by the door. "I came to help you change for dinner, Charlene and I was going to ask you if you knew where Joan was, but I see she is here!"

"What’s up, Tante Marie?" Joan asked, rather more perky than Charlene felt after hours in a corset.

"I was going to ask you to make a tossed salad and watch the pots on the stove. If the timer rings, please take the roast out of the oven and place the rolls in, set the timer for eighteen minutes and I should be back by then. Si vous Plait?" Marie asked.

"Sure! I get the easy job tonight anyway! It’s Charlene’s turn to help clean up! Bye!" Joan popped up off the bed and headed for the kitchen to take over for Marie.

Marie looked at Charlene for a moment, cocked her head as if surveying a work of art and then let out a sigh.

"Marie? Is something wrong?" Charlene asked. The look on Marie’s face made her think the French woman she was starting to think of as an aunt was somehow unhappy.

"Moi? No, no, Cherie! I was just looking at you and was a little saddened that we have to take you out of your corset and dress you for the rest of the evening. It does such wondrous things for your figure. You are really a very pretty young lady!" Came Marie’s reply.

Charlene swore she could see her toes blushing through the hose on her feet! She felt very warm after receiving such a compliment from Marie. "Umm… So… So, where do we start?"

After Marie had helped Charlene out of her dress and loosened the laces on the corset, Charlene took a very deep breath for the first time in what seemed ages! Marie told her to go take a quick shower and she would leave lingerie in the bathroom for her and an outfit on the hanger by her closet. Charlene was to shower, dress and be down for dinner in forty-five minutes.

"Back to the hurry, hurry, hurry part of the day! I guess ‘Free time’ is over!" Charlene mumbled as she wriggled out of the corset and panties and hopped into the welcome relief of a warm shower.

The lingerie was a simple white bra and a ‘Monday’ day-of-the-week panty. When Charlene entered the bedroom, there was hose and a garter belt on the bed and a Black tea length skirt hanging on the hook. A pastel peach short sleeved sweater was on the vanity with a note on top. Marie reminded Charlene to do simple makeup for dinner and not be late!

Another sigh and Charlene started to get dressed. Everything went a lot faster now since she had been practicing for the last few days under Marie’s watchful eye. Even the makeup was done quickly and Charlene made it to dinner with a couple minutes to spare.

You would have thought that after an entire afternoon in a corset, Charlene would be very hungry. Charlene thought so too! However, as she started to eat, she noticed that she became full very quickly. Marie was the first to say something.

"Do not worry Cherie, it is from the corset! Your stomach will not want much in it for a few more hours. I will make certain there is a snack for you later." She told a startled Charlene.

"Thank you Marie, I wasn’t sure why I wasn’t hungry." Charlene replied.

This short discussion prompted Jane into an impromptu dissertation on corsets and their value in both posture and figure training for young ladies of fine breeding. After fifteen minutes of listening to the history of corsets, Charlene was sure she now knew more about them than she would ever need to know!

The rest of the meal was the normal discussion of the day’s events and the upcoming visit of someone named Diana on Wednesday.

"Charlene, I expect you to be on your best behavior while Diana is here, she is a very dear friend." Jane told her newest student. ‘If only she knew how dear!’ was Jane’s personal thought of having Art/ Diana home again.

Charlene sat and waited for everyone to finish dinner, as she knew Jane would not excuse her early. She was expected to participate in the conversations even if she was not eating. Finally everyone was finished with dinner and Charlene rose to help Marie do dishes.

"The rest of the evening I believe you two have studies to work on. I shall leave you to that. Marie, I will be in my room, I need to make final arrangements for Diana’s arrival." Jane said as she patted her lips and excused herself and her two charges from the dinner table.

It was Charlene’s turn to help with dishes, when that was done she went to the student study and started on her next assignment. ‘The Flora and Fauna of Southwestern United States’ was the title of her next project. Working on the wildlife and plants in the Southwestern US, made Charlene think of home. She spent most of the evening being reminded of what she was missing by being in this academy in New England and not at home with her family.

"Charlene. There is enough time to shower and review the papers before bed. You should put away your project for the night." Joan rested a hand on Charlene’s shoulder and brought her back out of her daydreams.

"Oh! Okay! Sorry, I was just thinking…" came Charlene’s reply.

"I understand, come on!" Joan motioned for the door.

Charlene put away the books and straightened her study area. She had already learned that if she left everything the way she found it, Jane Thompson tended to leave her alone!

Charlene spent the rest of the night thinking about home. All her actions were on automatic as she readied for bed and looked through the paper. When Marie tucked her in and turned out the lights, she laid there for a long time just staring at the ceiling and letting a thousand thoughts run through her mind. It was a long night with very little sleep for Charlene.

Notes:

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