Tales of the Season: Charlene's Story - Chapter 20

Tales of the Season : Charlene's Story

By

Lisa Elizabeth

This is a work of fiction! It is set in the 'Season's of Change' universe started by Joel Lawrence, continued by Tigger and influenced by Ellen Hayes original version of 'Tucky Season'. All characters are fictional! I would like to thank Ellen for allowing me to write about Charlene and not yelling at me for plagiarizing small amounts of text where needed!! Thanks to Tigger for finishing the original story line and continuing the story universe. And I would like to thank Brandy DeWinter for writing Jesse's story. That gave me more insight into the mind of a Thompson Academy student. A big thank you to my wife for helping me with editing. A final thank you to all the other people that have done so much to make this possible. Their numbers are too numerous to list.

Chapter Twenty

Learning a different way…

Charlene sat up in bed and took a deep gasping breath. Her heart was pounding and she was wide-eyed again. "This has got to stop!" she muttered as she got out of bed and headed for the bathroom. She sat on the toilet thinking about the dream that woke her up. She was in the dress from last night with her hair in ringlets and carrying a giant lollypop. The worst part was she was on a ship or a stage that looked like a ship and she was singing… "On the goo-o-o-d ship Lollypop!" and she was dancing, just like that girl actress her Mom loved so much… Shirley something… Well, she sang, danced and performed just like in the movie. When the song ended, she received a lot of applause. Looking out into the audience while giving her final curtsey was what had shocked her. There sat her Mom, Dad, brother, Aunt, Uncle, cousins, Marie, Joan, Diana, Carol, Sandy, Ms. Franson, Judge Ruth and standing in the middle of them was Jane Thompson. Bringing her family into the dream was what scared Charlene. How could she ever live if her Mom, Dad and brother ever saw her dressed like that! Now that would be a worse thing to have happen!

Charlene shuddered at the thought a second time. Decided that Ms. Thompson couldn't possibly be that mean to fly her family out here to embarrass her, so she took a drink of water and went back to bed.

Jane reset the security alarm on Charlene's room monitor and returned to bed after watching her recover from another nightmare.

*****

The next few weeks turned into a routine for Charlene. Monday morning was 'Etiquette and Deportment'. Either Marie or Jane Thompson would help Charlene learn about clothing, makeup, hairstyling, hair removal, posture, walking in high heels or some other item that seemed important to Jane. The afternoon was for self-study, research and report writing. Tuesday mornings were lectures or demonstrations by Jane for the academic subjects or Marie for the Home Economics portions of Charlene's studies. Tuesday afternoon was divided between piano practice and an artistic time where Charlene was encouraged to express herself in watercolor or clay. Wednesday was out of the house. Morning was at 'Marisha Chalet' with Sandy, then on to Carol's cosmetics class to finish the morning. A light lunch at the Country Club and then the afternoon at 'The Style Shoppe' where Charlene could never figure out why she needed to try on so many dresses and why Jane kept buying four or five every week! Thursday was education and piano practice. Friday was more Home Economics and always some lady came for morning tea. Charlene finally figured out that since she was the 'junior student', she was the one that would always serve that tea. Saturday was a day out with Jane and Joan. Usually a museum or gallery, something educational. Sunday was a day of rest. Pretty much a day to do as the girls felt. Charlene usually ended up part of each Sunday brushing the horses in the barn. Her afternoons were spent reading or catching up on schoolwork.

On this Tuesday, Charlene dressed appropriately for her school lessons. All white cotton lingerie, beige stockings, a white blouse, red plaid pleated skirt and 'Mary Jane's' with a one inch heel. Her makeup was light and young making her look like a girl her own age and her hair was pulled back into a high ponytail with a multi-colored ribbon tied in a bow at the base of it. Looking in the mirror, Charlene felt ready for school that day.

Arriving for breakfast with minutes to spare, Charlene stood behind her chair and waited for Joan and Jane to arrive. Joan came in through the kitchen door having helped Marie with breakfast and took her place. Jane arrived less than one minute later and with a cheery 'good morning!' took her place and the meal started.

After the standard drill on the current news events, including fashion and theatrical, Jane settled down to tell Joan and Charlene what they were doing that day. "Girls, we have a change in our schedules today. Joan, your piano lesson has changed to this morning and may remain that way, if things work out, so we will be leaving fifteen minutes after breakfast. Charlene, you will need to change after we finish. You will be accompanying me while Joan is at her lesson. Dress a bit casual." Jane received the 'Yes, Ms. Thompson' from Charlene and returned to her breakfast and her normal banter.

Breakfast ended and Charlene headed upstairs to change as quickly as possible. She was getting better at completing her changes in the time given but trying to look like it was easy was still a problem for Charlene. She made a quick check of her closet, grabbed a sundress and one petticoat and changed as quickly as she could. Fortunately, the sundress was white with a delicate print so the white lingerie would be appropriate. This cut down on the amount of time it took for Charlene to change. Charlene removed the ribbons and used a couple of barrettes to hold her hair, re-applied her lipstick and she headed for the hall to wait for Joan and Jane. For the first time since she had arrived at Thompson Academy, Charlene was the first one to arrive at the front door.

She had just fluffed her skirt and perched on the bench when she heard Jane and Joan coming down the steps. She quickly stood, shook her petticoat and smiled as Jane turned the corner toward the front door.

"Very good! We are all present, let us leave so we are not late!" Jane said as she headed out the front door, Joan and Charlene in tow.

The drive was a pleasant one with Jane. She asked Charlene and Joan questions about the local plants and animals they saw along the way. She also gave them a history of the area, from early colonization right up to current public works projects and charitable functions in the area. In no time, the forty-minute drive ended as Jane pulled into a driveway.

"Ms. Krouse is expecting you this morning, Joan. Either Charlene and I will be here, or Marie, depending on how things go this morning." Jane told Joan as she unbuckled her seatbelt.

"Thank you Aunt Jane, I'll just keep playing until, Ms. Krouse tells me to stop!" Joan smiled as she opened the car door. "Oh! Bye Charlene! See you later!" Joan closed the car door.

Jane waited until Joan was inside the house before she put the car in gear and headed off for the next destination.

Charlene had learned not to ask where they were headed. She was certain Jane Thompson had something different in mind for her this morning. She only hoped it didn't include changing clothes fifty times before lunch!

Twenty minutes after dropping off Joan, Jane pulled into the parking lot of 'Madame Krutzkov's School of Dance'. "Come along Charlene." Was all she said.

A somewhat wary Charlene got out of the car and followed Jane into the building.

"May I help you?" a young looking lady asked as they heard the door chime when it was closed.

Charlene decided she must be in her thirties, since she was older than he was but younger
than Jane or Marie.

"Hi Yvonne, how are you?" Jane replied as if she were her oldest friend in the world.

"Jane! Good to see you! It has been awhile! What can I do to help you today?" Came Yvonne's reply.

"I'd like to introduce you to my newest student. Miss Charlene Hawkins. Miss Hawkins, this is Madame Yvonne Krutzkov. She danced for years with the Moscow and New York Ballet Companies." Jane said while motioning Charlene forward.

Yvonne let out a laugh. "Three years with each before I became pregnant and got married! Now? I try to teach young ones grace in movement through ballet. I am pleased to meet you Charlene. I take it you are interested in ballet?"

Charlene paled and her heart raced. Before she could stop herself she said, "I am?"

"Yes Charlene you are. I believe that all those years of being a tomboy have prevented you from learning to move as a lady should. I feel that ballet lessons are just the thing to teach you the fluid movements a lady should possess." Jane replied to Charlene's question.

"Tomboy huh? That won't be too hard to correct! Five to seven years of ballet and you will be the epitome of grace and fluid movement!" Madame Krutzkov said with a smile.

"Five to seven… Years?" squeaked Charlene.

"Now Yvonne! Don't panic the girl so. Charlene isn't interested in becoming a prima ballerina such as you or Caitlyn. She just needs to become more fluid. I believe you would say she needs to learn a 'dancer's grace'." Jane said noticing the visible relaxation in Charlene.

"That all? Oh then three to four months of basic ballet training will fix all that is wrong with her movements. I really need you to bring me another wonderful student such as Caitlyn. She is doing so well. I've been invited to one of her performances in New York! I'm so excited to go and see her perform." Replied Yvonne.

"Yes, I've received the same invitation. If things go like I seem to think, we may see you at Caitlin's performance." Jane replied.

"Now! Down to business! I have a beginner's class this morning. It starts in twenty minutes. If you like, we have the tights, leotard and slippers available so Charlene could start today with everyone else?" Yvonne offered.

"That would be ideal, don't you think Charlene?" Jane asked rhetorically.

Charlene looked at Jane and then at Madame Krutzkov not knowing what to say. It appeared they were both waiting for her to say something so she decided to try and be shy about it. "I've never done any dancing, are you sure I'll be able to do this?"

Yvonne let out a short laugh. "Do not worry about that Charlene, most of the girls in this class have never danced either. You will fit in just fine."

Jane had already decided that Charlene would join the Tuesday morning ballet class. She handed Yvonne a check for the tuition and then proceeded to tell Charlene to accompany Madame Krutzkov to be fitted for her first lesson.

Yvonne led the way into another room and looked at the tag on Charlene's sundress. "Ah… A medium should fit you just fine. What size shoes do you wear?" she asked.

"An eight." Replied Charlene.

"Alright! Here we go everything you will need. The changing room is to the left, I'll go tell Ms. Thompson you are getting ready, just come back to the entrance when you are ready. You'll have to hurry, the other students will be here in less than fifteen minutes." Yvonne said pointing to a door on the far side of the class area.

Charlene hurried to the changing room. She was used to hurrying from being at Thompson Academy for so many weeks, but now changing quickly was paramount in her mind. "What if one of the girls walks in while I'm changing? Oh god! I have got to hurry!" Charlene mumbled to herself as she quickly stripped out of her outfit and into the tights and leotard. "Thank goodness Marie had me using a 'dancer's gaff' for the past two weeks!" Charlene paused a second. "Marie knew! Ms. Thompson must have told her she planned on me taking ballet! Why else would I have needed a gaff!" The realization hit Charlene hard. Like one of those sledgehammer things, Jane Thompson did to get your attention. "I'll have to ask Marie about that when we get home."

Charlene had just finished tying her ballet slippers when the first student entered the changing room.

"Hi! I'm Amanda," A girl about Charlene's age said as she put down her gym bag.

"Umm. Oh. Hi! I'm Charlene. Nice to meet you." Charlene replied.

"You starting lessons today?" Amanda asked.

"Yes, I am." Charlene replied.

"Me too! Mom says I need to learn to move like a 'lady', Blahh! I'd rather be out playing baseball!" Amanda replied.

Charlene let out a single laugh. "Me too! Ms. Thompson is my teacher and she thinks I am too much of a tomboy too!" Charlene laughed again at the thought that her 'cover' was the same as another girl in this class.

Amanda let out a small giggle. "We both seem to be in the same boat! Glad I'm not alone."

"Charlene looked at the clock on the wall. " I need to get back to the office, Madame Krutzkov and Ms. Thompson wanted to check the fit of my tights and leotard. I'll see you in class!" Charlene smiled as she left the room and headed back to the office.

Charlene entered the front office where Jane and Ms. Krutzkov were chatting. Both looked at her at the same time.

"The outfit looks fine, Charlene." Ms. Krutzkov said. "Why don't you head into the studio and I'll be in to start class in a couple of minutes. We seem to have a few stragglers coming in yet."

Charlene nodded and headed through the door marked 'Dance Studio'. When she entered the room there were eight girls in the room all dressed exactly like Charlene. Powder blue leotard, white tights and pink ballet slippers. Everyone's hair was up in a ponytail, except Charlene's. Looking around the room, Charlene saw Amanda and headed over to be near her.

"Hi again. I got the ok from my teacher, so I guess I'll be in this class." Charlene said as she approached Amanda.

"All right class" Yvonne Krutzkov said as she clapped her hands to get everyone's attention. "This is a BEGINNERS Ballet class. Has anyone in here taken ballet before?" No hands raised so she continued. "We will always start our class with a little warm up period and then go on to learn the basics of positions and movements. You may find the first two classes a little boring as we go slow for everyone to get the positions right. Then things will pick up as we start to put together dance routines, so just be patient! You will all be ballerinas in no time! Shall we begin, Ladies?"

Charlene worked hard to do all the stretches and then all the positions required in the one hour class. She knew she had a workout when the class ended. Yvonne encouraged everyone to practice at least three times this week so they could move on to more complex positions next class.

Ms. Thompson called Charlene as everyone headed for the changing area. "Just slip your sundress and shoes on, we have to hurry to get Joan from her practice." After a quick 'Yes, Ms. Thompson' Jane headed for the entry to await Charlene.

Charlene walked into the changing area and saw the girls in various states of undress. This was a teenage boy's dream come true! Only Charlene had to pretend she was a girl and that half-naked girls were totally normal! This caused a bit of a fright as she felt herself stiffen inside her gaff. She hurriedly got to her locker and slipped on her sundress and the one petticoat. This offered her a little more safety and would explain why her skirt fluffed out. She changed her shoes, then stuffed everything into her new ballet bag and headed out the door.

"Bye Charlene!" Amanda called and waved as she stood there in just her bra and panties.

Charlene's eyes went wide for a second, she composed herself and gave a little wave and said "Bye Amanda, see you next time!" She left the room quickly; hoping that no one noticed the blush that she was certain could be seen through her makeup.

The first few minutes of the ride back to Ms. Krouse' house was done in silence. Then
Jane spoke. "You did very well Charlene, I think ballet will help you learn to be much more graceful in your movements. We will be on a tight time schedule after class in order to pick up Joan from her lesson, so I would suggest you just wear a wrap skirt over your leotard and tights."

"A wrap skirt? I don't think I have a wrap skirt, Ms. Thompson." Charlene replied, realizing her mistake as soon as the words left her mouth.

"Oh, never fear, we will take care of that after we pickup Joan." Jane replied with a smile on her face that told Charlene she had stepped right into another round of clothes changing!

Charlene was quiet the rest of the drive back to Joan's piano lesson. Joan came out the door and hurried toward the car as Jane pulled into the driveway.

"Hi Aunt Jane! Hi Charlene! So, what did you two do while I practiced?" Joan asked, genuinely interested.

"Charlene has signed up for ballet lessons for the next three to four months. Madame Krutzkov believes it will only take that long for her to learn graceful movements." Jane told Joan.

"Cool! Don't worry Charlene, I took ballet for three months in order to learn to be more graceful too! Maybe I can help you with some of the positions until you learn them." Joan replied with a big smile.

Jane watched Joan out of the corner of her eye while she drove. Something was different, maybe just some excitement over a good lesson. Jane knew there was the state music competition coming up and that Joan would be competing against students older than she. Jane also knew that Joan was better than last year's senior high school champion on the piano. No, that wasn't it. Jane would watch Joan closely for the next few days, it is possible that whatever is happening during the music lessons has allowed Joan to truly accept her femininity, only time would tell.

It seemed only a few minutes to Charlene and Jane pulled into the parking lot in front of 'The Style Shop'. Charlene made an inward groan; at least she hoped it was only inward and not audible! With a deep sigh, she opened the door ready for hours of trying on 'wrap skirts'! As they walked across the parking lot, Charlene finally looked up and noticed they were headed for 'Simply You' instead.

Jane walked into the store followed by her students. A mother duck would not have been prouder of the way they stayed in line. She headed directly toward Betty Hanson.

"Good afternoon ladies! What may I help you with today?" Betty Hanson asked.

"Hello, I'm Jane Thompson, you may remember that we bought three coats a few weeks ago?" Jane replied.

"Oh yes Ms. Thompson, I do remember. Is there a problem with the coats?" Ms. Hanson asked.

"Oh no! The coats are just fine. We need a few wrap skirts for my two students. Charlene has started ballet and will need it to go over her leotard and tights for travel to and from lessons. Joan has offered to help Charlene practice during the week and will need one for walking around the house."

"Hmm… I see… I think I have just what you need over here. Follow me please." Betty Hanson headed for a corner of the store. "Which school of ballet is she to study?"

"Madame Krutzkov's" Came Jane's reply.

"The different teachers like different styles of skirts for the students. Here is the style Madame Krutzkov prefers her girls wear. I have them in two colors that look very good with the required blue and white outfit. I have a matching blue or off-white. I also have complete leotard, tights and skirt outfits in other colors for practice at home. I believe this pale pink would look wonderful on her." Ms. Hanson held up a leotard and skirt for Jane to look at.

Jane noted that all the leotards and skirts were 'Danskin', a very reputable company for dancewear. "Charlene, I think you should try on the pink outfit and then this red leotard with black tights and the red and white skirt. Those two outfits should do for practice at the house. We'll also pick up a second set of blue and white for your lessons, in case laundry is delayed for some reason."

Charlene tried hard to not sigh. 'More clothing changes!', she thought as she followed Ms. Hanson toward the changing area.

Charlene modeled the pink skirt and leotard first. Jane nodded her approval. She changed into the black tights, red leotard and the red and white skirt next. Looking in the mirror, Charlene felt it looked a lot nicer than the pink. When she left the changing room to show Jane, she felt it was the nicer of the two outfits.

"Charlene! That outfit is perfect for you!" Betty Hanson stated, as Charlene did her walk and twirl that Jane expected.

"I must agree" Jane replied. "The pink gives you a soft winsome look, perfect for a budding ballerina. This outfit shows power. As if you are the best dancer on the stage and you know it! I think we will take both and the second uniform for the lessons. Joan, did you find anything you would like to try on?"

"I only have the two blue and white outfits from when I took lessons, will they be alright for practicing with Charlene?" Joan asked.

"Joan dear, is there an outfit you have your eye on?" Jane asked a second time.

"Yes Aunt Jane, there is." Joan replied and headed off to show Jane her choice. What she looked at was a duplicate of the two-thousand-six United States Olympic leotard. Along with a red, white and blue skirt and white tights.

"Interesting. Go try the outfit on, let's see what it looks like on you." Jane told Joan.

A genuine smile came to Joan's face as she scurried off to the dressing room Charlene was just vacating.

"I'll be right out Charlene, you have got to see this outfit!" Joan yelled as she hurried into the changing room.

Charlene was stunned for a moment by Joan's hurried exuberance over trying on more clothes. She was just so very tired of changing clothes all the time; she couldn't understand Joan's excitement. "Must be a girl thing." Charlene muttered under her breath as she left the changing rooms and returned to Jane.

"Charlene, I think we will take all three outfits. That will give you some variety and a few choices for your practice times." Jane told Charlene as she arrived.

"Yes, Ms. Thompson." Came the automatic reply from Charlene.

A few moments later, Joan came gliding out of the changing area looking every inch as good as any of the United States female gymnasts. Charlene thought her smile might have been just a little bit wider than any of the gymnasts.

"What do you think Aunt Jane? Isn't it just perfect?" Joan asked. She stopped and did a pirouette, right in front of Jane and Charlene.

"Very nice Joan, and I see you remember some of your lessons. Go change, we will take that outfit also." Jane replied. 'Definitely there has been a change in Joan. She has let go of the final macho trappings and has truly embraced her femininity. I shall inform Marie and we will take the next step. She may be going home by thanksgiving!' Needless to say, Ms. Jane Thompson-Phillips was now in a very good mood.

"Thank you, Aunt Jane." Said Joan as she gave Jane a hug and then hurried off to change back into her normal clothes.

Betty Hanson totaled up the purchases while discussing fashion with Jane Thompson. "We also carry a line of performing dresses for recitals. Along with current fashions for the young ladies. If there is anything else you need, please just give me a call and I'll see what we can find."

Jane nodded her head as she signed the credit card slip. "As I told you before, I like what I see here, I am certain that as I gain different students, we will be coming in to get them outfitted for various items." Jane thought for a moment. "Is it possible for you to get period correct lingerie in case we are asked to participate in some re-enactment?"

"Yes it is! Do you know Ms. Edith White? Jane nodded and Charlene inwardly groaned. She has started recommending our store for her pageants and debutante balls. I am able to get whatever a young lady needs with a little advance notice. I have a custom clothing house that can make just about anything you need with a couple of weeks notice." Betty responded. "They also carry a few standard sizes that could work if you are in a hurry or are short on time."

"I shall keep that in mind. The girls have a couple of things coming up that may require a fitting or two." Jane smiled and extended her hand. "We must be on our way, girls, please take your new outfits and let's head back to the house. I'm certain Marie thinks we have become quite lost!" She gave a gentle handshake to Betty Hanson and turned to leave the store.

The ride back to Season's House was a pleasant one for both Charlene and Joan. Jane just chatted about how beautiful the day was and how wonderful the New England area was for renewing oneself. Jane's mood was vastly improved over the drive in this morning, noting how Joan had finally accepted herself and now the final steps of returning her to her family could begin.

Marie noted the excitement in Jane's voice right away. You do not work closely with someone as long as Marie had and not notice when things change. She did however, have both girls go change into their new ballet practice outfits so she could see a little of what Charlene had learned and what Joan remembered.

Joan came back looking exactly like an Olympic Gymnast. Charlene wore her black tights, red leotard with the red and white skirt. Both girls wore pink ballet slippers. Charlene and Joan then did a series of plea's and demonstrated first through third positions for Marie's enjoyment. Joan broke into an impromptu thirty-second routine that she remembered from her recital. When she finished with a graceful deep curtsey, Marie and Charlene applauded.

"You are so graceful. I don't think I could ever do that." Said Charlene as they headed for their rooms to change, again, before lunch.

"It's just practice. By the time you have been taking lessons for three months or so, you will be able to do the same things!" Joan replied as she headed through her room door. "See you in a few minutes."

Charlene entered her room and again had to change clothes. "Even when I'm not being tested on changing clothes, I'm changing clothes!" With a small sigh, she changed out of the dance outfit and into a simple sundress, adding a petticoat just to insure that Jane stayed in a good mood. Adding heels and checking her makeup she went down to see if Marie needed help with lunch.

With ballet added to the Tuesday morning routine, the afternoon changed from Piano practice and art to Piano practice and lecture/ study time. An hour before lunch was set aside on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday for ballet practice. Charlene swore, she needed a 'day planner' just to figure out where she was supposed to be.

It took a couple of weeks but eventually everyone settled into the new routine and things seemed to calm down at Thompson Academy.

One Tuesday, after returning from ballet and piano lessons, Marie greeted them at the front door with a big smile. "Your costumes for the Labor Day Parade have arrived! After you shower I'll have an outfit in each of your rooms, put them on and then come down so I can see what has to be altered to fit you."

"Okay, Tante Marie" said Joan.

"Okay, Marie." came from Charlene.

Twenty minutes later Charlene walked downstairs in a 'Florence Nightingale' outfit. A large black skirt, white blouse, a large white apron and a white hat with a small red cross on it. She had to put on four-inch heels to keep the skirt from dragging on the floor. When she entered Marie's sewing room, Joan was already there with Marie fussing around pinning and marking where to alter her World War II Army Nurse uniform.

"This will never do! Such terrible workmanship! The seamstress had no pride in her work!" Marie stated as she went around Joan pinning and marking away. "I should just start over! It would be much simpler!"

Another ten minutes of fussing and Marie was finished. "You can go change, Cherie. Just be careful not to stick yourself with a pin. I believe the lingerie was all white cotton, and very plain, I'll tell Ms. Thompson, she will have to arrange for you to be fitted for that. The silk stockings and garter belt are things you already have, so it will be easy to make you look authentic."

"Thanks Tante Marie! I'll be back as soon as I can, Charlene looks like you may need help to get her out of that outfit when you are through." Joan smiled on her way out the door.

Charlene looked confused, why would she need help to take off her outfit after the fitting?

"Okay Cherie, Let us see what we have to work with, no?" Marie approached Charlene, tape measure and pins in hand.

After a few minutes of looking over the outfit, Marie shook her head and let out a sigh. "This will never do. The skirt and blouse are all wrong in proportion; we have to fix things before we can proceed. Up to your room, Charlene, we have things to do vite! Vite!" Marie shooed Charlene out of the sewing room and towards her bedroom.

Charlene scurried up the steps and into her room with Marie following behind. Once inside the room, Marie had Charlene strip to her lingerie. The first thing Charlene noticed was Marie bringing a corset out of the wardrobe.

"Not another corset, Marie!" Charlene pleaded.

"But of course, Cherie! If you are going to be Florence Nightingale then you must dress the part! A lady of that period would feel absolutely naked without a proper corset! Now turn around and grab the lacing bar, we have a lot of work to do!" Marie smiled at Charlene and pointed toward the bar. Marie quickly hooked the corset around Charlene and had her laced down in no time. She tied off the laces after only two re-tightening of the laces. Charlene could still almost breathe!

"Not as tight as the last time Marie. Is there a reason for that?" Charlene asked.

"Cherie, there is always a reason, this outfit will require you to bend and move in order to help the wounded soldiers. It is therefore a 'working' corset and is usually a little looser and smaller to allow more movement. We will have you get a simple waist cincher next time you are in town." Marie smiled at Charlene's shocked expression.

"Another waist cincher? Don't I have enough of those already?" Charlene asked.

"This one has to be made special, so it will look authentic with your outfit. I will let Ms. Thompson know what is needed after we finish fitting this dress to your new figure. Now try bending and stooping, Charlene." Marie instructed. "Very good, now put the dress back on and the shoes and come down to the sewing room."

Charlene did as Marie asked, rechecked her makeup in the mirror and then headed toward Marie's sewing sanctuary. Marie was all set with a tape measure around her neck and pins in her mouth with a note pad just like you imagine a seamstress in a movie would be. In what seemed like hours but was actually about forty-five minutes, the dress was pinned and ready to be removed so Marie could alter it to fit Charlene properly.

"Let's get you out of this dress, so you can change into something else for the rest of the day. I have a robe behind that screen, go change and bring the dress back to me." Marie pointed to an oriental changing screen in the corner of the room.

Charlene did as instructed and was soon handing the dress back to Marie. "Marie, could you loosen the laces please?" Charlene asked as she turned her back to Marie.

"My orders are for you to remain in that corset until dinner, Cherie. Now put the dressing gown back on and go find a dress that will fit your lovely shape." Marie replied.

Charlene let out a medium sigh. 'At least it isn't as tight as the last couple times Ms. Thomson made me wear one!' Charlene shook her head as she headed for her room.

Charlene tried on four dresses before she found one that didn't hang loose on her corseted frame. The only problem with the outfit was that it required two petticoats to make the skirt hang properly, Charlene knew she would be heard rustling her way around the house for the rest of the day.

Charlene looked at the clock and realized it was almost lunch. She redid her makeup to closely match her chosen outfit, slipped into the appropriate heeled sandals and made her way down the stairs toward the dining room. When she entered, she saw that Joan had changed into a similar outfit to hers, complete with additional petticoats. She raised an eyebrow in Joan's direction.

'C-o-r-s-e-t' Joan silently mouthed.

Charlene gave a knowing nod and stood behind her chair, a minute later Jane walked into the room.

"My, you ladies look absolutely lovely this afternoon! Shall we dine?" A genuine smile came to her face. The banter over lunch was about ballet, piano and the upcoming parade. Marie made the comment that she had a lot of rework to make the outfits look authentic and that she would have a list of items needed to make the dresses look as perfect as possible by afternoon tea.

Charlene and Joan looked at each other knowing they were in for another shopping trip and god knows how many fittings! Charlene tried to stifle a sigh but let a little of it out. She hoped Jane hadn't noticed in her good mood.

Lunch concluded on a good note and Jane asked Charlene to accompany her to the study.

Charlene took the required pose next to the most uncomfortable chair ever made. "You may sit Charlene." Jane motioned to the chair as she took her place behind the desk. She picked up her glasses and perched them on her nose. Looking over them, she said. "There will be a change in your Tuesday schedule, as I am certain you have figured out. Tuesday morning will be ballet and study until lunch. Unless, of course, Marie needs you for a fitting or some culinary lesson. The afternoon will continue to be piano practice, you are progressing so well, I just can't let that slip!" Pride shown on Jane's face while she complimented Charlene. "The other portion of the afternoon will be lecture and project research, until dinner but only on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Monday and Wednesday afternoon, I will be starting your riding lessons. You have done well in learning the things I feel you need to learn and as I told you, when progress is noted, you receive rewards. Correct me if I am wrong, but riding the horses was on your list of things you would like to do?"

"Very much, Ms. Thompson. Umm… Thank you!" Charlene replied

Jane continued. "The evening schedule shall remain the same for now. I am certain we will have little changes to our routine as we get into more activities outside of the academy. I will always let you know of any permanent changes like today when I get things rescheduled. You are doing very well at ballet, you are very quick at learning new skills, Charlene." Jane smiled at her student.

"Thank you, Ms. Thompson." came Charlene's reply.

Jane made a few notations in her file and then scanned the calendar on her desk. "Shall we retire to the library? We can accomplish a lot of education before tea."

Charlene followed Jane out of the study.

Jane spent the afternoon, presenting material on a variety of topics. She was also giving oral quizzes as she finished each topic lecture. Charlene comprehended at ninety-two percent according to Jane's practiced mind. This allowed Jane to present the basic material of eighth grade at a very fast pace. In the few weeks that Charlene had been at the academy, she was through a full semester of classes and working on the second half of her year of study.

'At this pace she will be a junior when she returns home instead of a freshman.' Jane smiled at the thought. 'This was most likely part of the overall problem… boredom!'

Tea arrived quickly for Charlene. It never seemed like she was studying all that hard when Ms. Thompson was lecturing or demonstrating a new topic. She knew she had to listen, since Jane asked questions as she moved through the material. Along with the verbal quizzes, she knew that they were covering a lot of material very quickly. Charlene also noticed that when a topic seemed hard to grasp, Jane slowed the pace and brought out some way to demonstrate the principle she has trying to get across. This 'hands on' approach really seemed to solidify the lessons in Charlene's mind and she did very well on the weekly essay and short answer exams that popped up on her computer from time to time. Another thing she finally realized was that all of the examples and demonstrations that Jane Thompson used were feminine. For showing force, it was the amount of effort to push a needle through a piece of denim. In showing how a mixture worked in chemistry, the demonstration was held in the kitchen. (Although Charlene had to admit, the double chocolate chip cookies were very good!) Even during english, Charlene was always asked to think how the girl/ lady in the story was relating to events around her. She did feel that dressing in a corset and period correct "Scarlett" gown for 'Gone With the Wind' was a bit much, but she read it as quickly as possible and was only in the corset for five days.

Tea this Tuesday was probably the most relaxed affair that Charlene had attended since coming to Season's House. Joan served and seemed to truly enjoy acting the perfect hostess. Jane noticed and decided that talking to Joan in the morning would be soon enough. That way she could be certain that the change was genuine and not just a bit of propitiation given as a way to return home early.

Charlene had piano practice now from tea until dinner. Her playing had progressed to the point that Jane was considering entering her in the annual state competition. 'Charlene learns at such a rapid pace!' Jane thought as she looked over her two students. 'Joan is so much happier, since we started the lessons out of the house. Getting out and being treated as the girl she appears may be what finally made her embrace herself. I wonder if the same will happen for Charlene?'

Jane made a few more notations in her notebook, then cleared her desk and sat back to listen to Charlene practice a pleasing Chopin piano sonata. She was just drifting along with the music when there was a knock on the door. "Enter" she responded.

Marie entered, dust cloth in hand. The one signal that meant she wanted to talk to Jane about a student. Jane rose and moved to the couch at the far end of the room, away from prying ears, at it were.

"Have you noticed Joan?" Marie asked as she sat on the couch.

Jane nodded her head. "She has been different for a few weeks now. I noticed it when Charlene started ballet. It is as if the switch has finally been thrown. I was watching her and we already had her working with you today on cooking and sewing so I figured you might see the change too."

"I did. She has been completely at ease with herself for a couple weeks now. I think she is finally over all her problems and has come to realize we are truly trying to help her." Marie replied.

"I was hoping to wait until morning to start the next phase, just to make certain the change is real. What do you think, Marie?" Jane asked.

Marie looked at Jane and then looked at a picture on the wall for a moment before responding. "Yes. I think that would be wise. Joan has followed our plan exactly as she should have, which in light of our recent students is a nice change. I think tomorrow by tea she would be ready to talk with you."

"I agree, that way we both can observe her a little more to be certain the change is genuine. I know, I know… We should not doubt our program, it has worked for so many young men, but I am just a little cautious yet. A few hours should not make that much difference." Jane replied.

Marie nodded her head. "I will watch until tea tomorrow, if I see a problem I'll meet you here afterwards, otherwise it is on to the final phase for our Joan, no?"

Jane nodded her head in agreement. "Well that is settled for today! What do you think of Charlene's piano playing?"

"Tres magnifique'! She has learned at such a rapid pace. She is a natural, Jane!" Marie exclaimed.

"Yes, her piano playing has progressed very quickly. I think when she finally relaxes; her ballet lessons will do the same. She may become graceful very quickly, I shall have to watch closely." Jane replied. "So, Marie how is dinner coming?"

Marie laughed. "Just fine it will be ready at six-thirty as you asked, so that Charlene can complete her practice time. I made one of Joan's favorites tonight, just to let her know I think of her once in awhile."

Jane nodded. "Then I should go freshen up before dinner. I cannot have my students thinking they are making me too happy!" Jane and Marie rose and headed out of the study.

That evening at dinner Charlene noticed that Jane was doing a lot of talking and watching of Joan rather than her. For this, she was grateful, but became concerned over what Joan had done to receive such scrutiny. She decided she would talk to Joan later when they were exchanging the evening papers before bed.

Tuesday evening was always a divided time for the students. Joan was learning baking from Marie and the house always smelled wonderful, while Charlene tried to catch up on her reports and tests in various subjects. This Tuesday was no different. The evening progressed until Joan came and told Charlene it was time to get ready for bed.

Charlene decided to ask Joan questions on their way to their rooms. "Did you do something wrong today?"

Joan gave Charlene a questioning look. "I don't think so, why do you ask?"

"It's just… Maybe it was just my imagination, but it seemed Jane was asking you a lot more questions and watching you a lot more closely than me tonight." Charlene replied.

"Oh… I don't think so… I mean she has paid a lot less attention to me since you arrived, but with all the things you have had to learn. I mean, it just made sense that she needed to spend more time teaching you. Maybe she feels she can try to divide her time a little more evenly now?" Joan replied, trying to think of why Jane would be spending more time with her.

"That could be it. It did seem like she never gave me a minute's rest since I arrived here. It's either been changing clothes or learning makeup or cooking or going somewhere else to change clothes. Maybe she's just seeing if I've really learned anything since I got here. Like another of her tests or something." Charlene stated.

"I think Aunt Jane is just finally seeing that you are learning a few things and can get back to my program. I would like to go home sometime, by the way!" Joan replied with a giggle as they reached the top of the steps.

"Well, if you think so… Maybe I have learned a few things since I arrived here. I know I can change clothes a lot faster now! Charlene let out a laugh.

"Do you want to shower or review first? Your choice!" Joan said reaching for the newspapers on the hall table.

"You already have the papers, I'll get ready for bed first. See you in a bit." Charlene said as she headed for her room.

The balance of the evening consisted of showering, shaving and cleansing. Followed by reading the newspapers before Charlene placed the papers back on the table in the hall and went to bed.

*****

"Click" "This is NPR, National Public Radio!" is what woke Charlene in the morning. The opening jingle to 'Morning Edition' was now as familiar to her as slipping from bed and putting on a robe and slippers. As she was getting ready for this day, it struck her that today was another day for getting her hair done and more shopping! Charlene let out a large sigh as she entered the bathroom. "Another Wednesday, another day of Sandy and clothes changing. Will it ever end" The last comment made with a melodramatic flourish over her forehead. She let out a small laugh after seeing herself in the mirror and proceeded to get ready for the day.

The trip to 'Marisha Chalet' was like every other trip to the salon until Sandy got this weird look on her face…

"Charlene! Aren't you supposed to be on some float this coming Labor Day weekend?" Sandy looked at Charlene.

"With a small sigh, Charlene replied. " Yes. Joan and I are nurses for the ROTC float. I get to be 'Florence Nightingale. Joan is a WW II nurse. Why did you ask?"

"Marie had called me a couple weeks ago asking about hairstyles for the period. I did some checking and I think we can make you look pretty authentic." Sandy replied with a smile.

Charlene turned a little pale at the thought of Sandy smiling about anything! It was a good thing she had used a little extra foundation or her loss of color would be noticed by everyone in the salon.

"Will it take a long time? I know we have a couple of other appointments this morning according to Ms. Thompson." Charlene replied hoping to delay the inevitable. Once Sandy had an idea, it was difficult to sway her from completing it.

"Oh, this won't take long… Actually, you almost have enough hair to accomplish it! I think a little clip-in set of ringlets will fill it out just right. You don't need a perm or your color touched up so we have a little time for some fun! What do you think?" Sandy asked trying to look innocent.

Charlene knew from past experience that she had to look like this was going to be the most fun thing she had ever done. It was part of what she had agreed to on her first visit to this salon so many weeks ago. Either that or Sandy could get very mean. Along with the fact that Sandy knew Charlene was not what she appeared to be. That fear alone was enough of a motivating factor for what Charlene said next.

"That would be great! Then we can see if I can duplicate it on the day of the parade. I don't think you work on that holiday so it would be best if I could learn to do it myself. Of course I might have to get Marie to help, but I think it would be great fun." Charlene replied with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. She plastered a big smile on her face just for added effect.

Sandy looked at Charlene for a moment, shook her head a little and replied. "Let's get started then. Melissa will wash your hair and then we will style it. You know where to go." She pointed toward the row of sinks at the far wall.

It took Melissa and Sandy close to an hour and a half to get Charlene's hair done in an appropriate style for her costume. When Charlene looked in the mirror her hair looked to be an exact copy of the picture Marie had of 'Florence Nightingale' back at the academy. She smiled at her reflection knowing she would be perfect in the parade. Then a thought crossed her mind.

"Umm…. Sandy? Am I going to be able to duplicate this for the parade?" Charlene asked.

"By yourself? Probably not! While Melissa was washing your hair I talked to Jane and we arranged for you and Joan to come in a couple hours early on Labor Day so the two of you look perfect. We also have a couple of the other girls coming in, like the County Fair Queen and the Cranberry Festival Queen and her court. That way it isn't just you and Joan in here all alone." Sandy smiled again at Charlene to let her know there would be no reprieve from her threats of exposure.

"Oh! Well that will make the parade a lot easier. Thanks so much Sandy!" Charlene tried to sound appreciative.

"I'm happy to do it! A happy customer is our goal here at 'Marisha Chalet.'" Sandy replied with a smile.

Charlene just nodded her head. After a couple minutes silence she worked up the courage to ask a question. "Umm…. Sandy? Are we going to leave my hair this way today? I was just wondering…"Charlene then turned toward the mirror trying to see her curls from all angles.

"Yes, we are! Jane said to get your hair trimmed so that you could style it again later, but that for this morning, you were to have your hair styled for the parade. I think she mentioned something about 'fittings' for the rest of the morning, I don't remember for sure." Sandy replied with a small smile.

"Fittings, huh?" Charlene let out an audible sigh.

"What? You're not happy with all this extra 'girly' stuff?" Sandy asked in mock surprise.

"It's not that. I don't mind all of this anymore. I just get tired of being a full size 'Barbie Doll' every time we come to town and trying on fifteen or twenty changes of clothes every week. I mean if we were actually shopping for a reason, I could understand that, but I have no idea why I need five or six new outfits every week!" Charlene replied. "Sandy, I haven't even worn a third of the clothes Ms. Thompson has bought for me so far! I already know that with this 'fitting' I'll have three or four more outfits in my closet and probably never wear them. So, I mean like what's the point? Huh?"

Sandy stood there looking at Charlene for a moment. Deep in thought she realized that this girl in front of her was no longer the brash scared rebellious boy that had first come into the shop so many weeks ago. She let a small smile creep to her face and looked at Charlene, then spoke. "Jane does everything for a reason, if you haven't figured that out yet. I'm certain you will find a purpose to every piece of clothing that is in your closet. I'm sure Jane has, or she wouldn't have bought them in the first place. Even if she is just torturing you, that would be their purpose! Somehow, I believe she is not into idle torture, she has helped too many other people in her years here and there is always a reason for what she is doing. Just trust her Charlene, it probably still doesn't seem like it, but Jane truly has what is best for you squarely in her mind. I am positive it will all be clear in a little while. Oh! I see Caro is ready for the makeup class, you had better get going."

Charlene looked at Sandy for a moment. She was surprised that there was a genuine warmth to this woman! After all the threats and all the innuendo of the past few months, this personal torturer shows a softer side. Charlene would have to think about this. She finally decided to reply to Sandy. "Umm… Ok…. I'd… I'd better get to the class… Umm… Than… Thank you Sandy… I… I'll see you next time." Still lost in thought over what Sandy had said, Charlene headed toward Caro and the makeup class.

The makeup class went smoothly and Charlene and Joan were the centers of attention, due to their hair being styled for the parade. Caro decided to do a little 'Theatrical Makeup' lesson to show that all the basics she had been teaching the girls could be applied to the upcoming parade costumes. The makeup made the girls look overdone up close, but when asked to move twenty feet away, they looked just right.

After the lesson was over, Charlene asked Carolyn "How should we do our makeup for the rest of the day?"

Caro looked over Charlene and Joan then replied. "Use the same colors just go lighter. You both know how to do that; I'll let you fix it. Then come see me and I'll see if there should be anything different."

Charlene and Joan said 'Thank you.' together and Caro smiled and headed off to see one of the other girls from the makeup class.

With their makeup corrected for everyday wear, Charlene and Joan returned to Jane in the waiting area of the salon.

"Ah! Girls! You both look lovely! I am glad Sandy and Carolyn fixed your hair for the upcoming parade. Marie did mention she needed you both to try on your outfits for the parade. We do have one stop on the way home. Shall we?" Jane said as she turned toward the door and waved at the receptionist on her way out of the salon.

The next stop was at 'Simply You'. Charlene remembered the last couple of times they had shopped there and Ms. Hanson seemed like a very nice person. This trip was to pick up some special items Marie had ordered.

As the trio entered the store, Charlene heard Ms. Hanson's voice. "Good morning ladies! Ms. Thompson! So good to see you again! The costumes were completed yesterday and I can check their fit on the girls now, if you like?"

Hello Betty. Marie told me you had called. We had a salon appointment today anyway, so it will work out well to insure that everything fits properly." Turning toward Joan and Charlene, Jane continued "Please hurry along girls. Ms. Hanson has other customers beside us to tend to today."

The fitting went as Charlene expected. Since she was doing 'Florence Nightingale', she knew that a corset would be required. She did not expect all the other items that went along with it!

"You will need to remove your bra, Charlene. I have built one into the corset." Ms. Hanson said as she showed Charlene a changing room.

Charlene looked at Ms. Hanson with surprise and then turned pale, even through her makeup!

Betty Hanson noticed the shock and reached out a steadying hand. She whispered in Charlene's ear "Don't worry dear. Marie told me you are a late bloomer and use forms, I built a pair into your corset so that you won't have to worry about them falling out or shifting while in the parade." She then gave Charlene a conspiratorial wink and left to see about Joan.

Charlene waited until she heard everyone talking to Joan before she removed her bra and forms. She quickly slipped a white chemise and then hooked the corset as quickly as she could before anyone came to help her tighten the corset. Ms. Hanson had been right, the built in breast forms were the same size as the ones she used and placed so that what chest skin she had made a rather decent cleavage. There was a knock on the door as Charlene checked herself in the mirror. "Yes?"

"Are you decent, Charlene?" Ms. Hanson's voice asked.

"Yes! Please come in." Charlene replied.

After a quick look around the room, Betty noticed Charlene had put the under corset chemise on just like it should have been. "Have you worn corsets before? You put that on as if you knew what you were doing! Very unusual for girls these days."

"Umm… Well… Ms. Thompson and Marie have been teaching us about how to dress properly for any occasion and occasionally a corset is required. Marie just told me it was so my dress would fit. In the time I've been at the school I've been in a corset twenty times or so. I'm still working on proper presentation, so I haven't had to leave the academy in one yet." Charlene replied.

Ms. Hanson smiled. "It is good to see that a young girl is learning all that is necessary to fit into society as we know it! A corset can be a girl's best friend or it can be a torture device. It is all in how one uses it. If you were dating a young man you do not wish to get too friendly with a corset such as the one you have on would be quite a deterrent to his amorous advances. There are more delicate corsets that are designed to entice your male admirers and make them think of things not repeated in polite society." Betty Hanson smiled after that comment. "But alas, you are a bit young to do much enticing! Therefore, the corset you have on will keep the boys on the float at bay!" She let out a little laugh.

Charlene, not certain what was so funny, politely giggled a little, to feign some conspiratorial agreement.

Ms Hanson then tightened the corset. Not as tight as Marie had but it was still tight and did restrict her movements a little. This corset was cut a little higher on the sides, so Charlene would be able to put on her own stockings easily. She could actually bend over! That was something new when wearing a corset.

"Ah! I see the surprise on your face that you can bend over and touch the floor. This is a working corset. It's cut allows more movement so that the wearer could do domestic chores without assistance. It appears from your expression that you are used to a longer corset, one that restricts your ability to bend and do things for yourself, am I correct?" Betty asked.

"Yes. I mean the corsets I have worn before severely limited my movement, this one just sort of squeezes you in the middle without that restriction." Charlene replied.

"It was designed to give you that bit of a girlish figure without all the trouble a full corset causes. I think you will like it much better than the longer ones. There is the added fact that you look lovely in it and it will compliment your costume for the parade perfectly. Let me call Ms. Thompson to check on the fit." Betty Hanson exited the room and a moment later Jane entered without knocking.

"Turn around Charlene" Jane asked while appraising the fit of the corset. "It fits you very well and it appears to be very well made. Oh! Marie asked that you leave it on, not only to break it in but that you are ready for a fitting when we arrive home. Just get dressed and I'll meet you out front." Jane left the room as quickly as she had entered.

It took Charlene a few minutes to get dressed and then to check her makeup and hair before leaving the dressing area. Not knowing what to do with her bra and breast forms, she folded the bra and tried to hide the forms inside the cups. It made a bulky item to try to place in her small purse. After trying a few minutes she gave up and went to ask Jane what to do with the unneeded items.

"Just place them on the counter and we will ask Ms. Hanson for a bag to place them in. Joan should be along in a moment, her unmentionables fit perfectly too." Jane stated as they waited for Joan to get dressed.

While they were waiting, Ms. Hanson totaled the order and Jane just handed her a wad of cash. Charlene was shocked to see that much money spent on items that she was sure she would only wear one time.

"Close your mouth Charlene. It is not very lady like to stare with your mouth hanging open. Is there a problem" Jane asked when she saw the shocked look on Charlene's face.

Charlene snapped her mouth shut and turned a bright red. Her reply came quickly. "I just am surprised at how expensive these garments are, Ms. Thompson. I mean that if we are only to wear them for the parade it seems expensive… Well what I mean to say is…"

"Charlene, these are hand-made corsets, custom built to match your body measurements. They are very well built and will not only last a long time, but I am certain they will serve the purpose we need them for. Therefore, it is not very expensive at all when you consider what you are getting for your money. They are worth the cost!" Jane replied.

"Yes Ms. Thompson." Charlene replied as she mulled over the thought of quality in clothing in her mind. She was roused from her thoughts when Jane issued forth the orders to march. Rather she said 'Come along! We have another appointment', but Charlene thought of it as marching orders anyway.

The next stop was the traditional weekly torture at 'Milady's Closet'. Charlene left the store with the promise of four more outfits delivered by that evening. The four new dresses were fit to her now corseted waist! Charlene didn't think about that, just the torture of having to change clothes fifteen times to come up with four new dresses. Jane on the other hand knew exactly what she was doing.

Marie was all excited when the girls arrived home from their shopping trip. You could see it in the animated way she went about serving a light lunch. She knew both girls were in either a corset or a girdle and she was ready for the final fitting on their costumes for the upcoming parade. Ever the watchful Mother hen, Marie made sure the girls ate and then asked them to freshen up. Afterwards they were to come to the sewing room for a fitting of the costumes.

Charlene arrived a couple of minutes after Joan. 'A corset is still a corset and it really slows you down!' Charlene muttered to herself as she tried to regain her breath. It was a rather long walk from the powder room, up the steps and down the hall to Marie's sewing room. This was made a bit harder by the restriction of the corset. Joan was already standing on the platform as Marie was busy marking and pinning various places on the dress. After having Joan twirl a final time she appeared satisfied and had Joan go change back into her normal clothes.

Marie put down her pins and looked at Charlene. "Cherie! Turn around and I will unzip you. That will help us hurry along with the fitting."

Charlene turned around and Marie unzipped the dress. Charlene heard Marie 'tsk, tsking' behind her. "Is something wrong Marie?"

"This corset. It is not as tight as it should be. Please step over to that door and reach for the curtain bar." Marie replied.

Charlene walked over to the doorway that separated Marie's sewing room from her supply closet. Marie moved the curtain to the side and Charlene reached up to grab the bar. Marie then untied the corset and retightened the laces. Now the corset felt as tight as her other corsets.

"Marie…? I take it… my dress… wouldn't fit… otherwise…?" Charlene asked in short breaths.

"Very true! The edges of the corset must meet, that is how the measurements were taken. We would not be able to button it at the waist otherwise! Sit on the stool, your breathing will ease shortly." Marie guided Charlene to a small stool.

After what seemed an eternity, Charlene was finally in her costume for the parade. There must have been a hundred little buttons up the back and even more when it came to attaching the white nurses apron that was common during that time period. Standing on Marie's platform took the longest, since it was a long full skirt and Marie had to pin the hem. Charlene remembered Marie saying something about it being over one-hundred-twenty inches in length.

Finally the fitting was over and Charlene was able to remove her costume. As she headed for the screened area to change Marie said. "Cherie, do not zip your dress, I want to loosen your corset a bit before you redress. We will tighten it as you break it in, but only this tight when I need you to try on the dress."

Charlene felt almost lightheaded when Marie released the corset back to it's prior tightness. She could almost get a deep breath! Well, deeper anyway… "Thank you Marie, it was really very tight. I'm not sure I can stand it that tight for the entire day." Charlene said after Marie had finished zipping her dress.

"Never fear, Charlene. You have been losing a little weight since you arrived here. The corset will fit just fine in another three to four weeks. That will be right on time for the parade!" Marie replied with a smile. Charlene had a look of surprise on her face, so Marie responded to the unanswered question. "You have not lost but a few pounds, Cherie so do not fret! What did you expect with being in a corset as often as Ms. Jane commands? You cannot possibly eat enough to gain weight and so you lose a little in order for the corset to feel more comfortable. It is simply your body adapting to the situation. Nothing more, nothing less!"

Charlene thought for a moment and then asked Marie. "So, if I were to wear a corset every day, I would eventually lose enough weight that I wouldn't need one, right?"

Marie laughed a little and said, "No Charlene, you would lose weight and the corset would become more comfortable to wear. It also alters your shape to that of a young lady and as we both know, without the corset you do not have the proper curves. In your case, a corset will always be needed to give you a girlish shape. But, if you do lose a few more pounds, tightening it down so that the sides meet properly will be much more comfortable."

Charlene mulled it over in her head for a few moments and then replied. "Thanks Marie. Are we done now?"

"Yes we are. You may go on with the rest of your day, but do leave the corset on until dinner, you need to break it in." Marie replied

Charlene nodded her head and then left the sewing room. As she headed for her next study period, Charlene thought about wearing a corset more often. It made sense that if she wore one more often, she would not only lose a little weight and become more comfortable in one, but it would help her posture to the point, Ms. Thompson wouldn't correct her for slouching. It sounded like a good idea, at least for a few days until she lost a few pounds and this corset didn't feel like it would cut her in half when it was tightened down properly.

Sitting at the piano during her afternoon practice was actually a little easier for Charlene, she could concentrate on her playing and not on maintaining the proper posture that Jane required. Having the corset on saw to that problem. It seemed that as she moved around the house for the rest of the day, everything was a little more refined. Not in such obvious ways as one would think, but since Charlene was still in a corset and thinking about wearing one more often, it made her move with a little more reserve. It's constant pressure reminded her to attempt to be a bit more graceful in her actions. Both Marie and Jane noticed the change before dinner.

Charlene was very happy to have the corset removed after dinner. Marie had made one of her culinary masterpieces and Charlene was certain she had overstuffed herself, even with the corset in place! It was quite a relief to get out of the corset. Charlene found a dress, added a petticoat, just to keep Jane happy, and headed off to study and complete a few more of her assignments.

The evening went smoothly with Charlene completing two 'pop' quizzes, one on ballet and the other on music. She had just rewritten a section of a report on mixtures when Joan tapped her shoulder and mentioned it was time for bed.

As they were walking toward the stairs Charlene asked Joan. "Do you think a corset will help me? I mean like if I wore one a little looser than Marie tightens it, do you think it would help me to move more the way Jane wants me to move?"

"You want to wear a corset every day?" Joan looked at Charlene like she was crazy.

"Well… Umm… Yea! I mean not as tight as the one I wore today, but you know! Maybe it would remind me to sit straight, move more ladylike, those kind of things." Charlene waited for an answer.

"I guess you could try it for a few days and see. If Jane gets into another of her clothes changing moods though it would slow you down a bit." Joan reminded Charlene.

"True, but she has really toned that down to just Wednesday afternoon at 'The Style Shoppe' and on Friday just before I serve tea to whoever is visiting that morning. I just thought it might help me not get 'corrected' quite so often, that's all… So? What do you think?" Charlene asked.

"It might be worth a try. If you decide to do it, just knock on my door and I'll tighten your laces for you." Joan said as they reached the top of the steps. She reached for the papers and asked, "read or shower?"

Charlene chose to bathe first. After spending all day in a corset, a relaxing bubble bath sounded good. As she added the salts to the water she stopped and looked in the mirror. 'Good grief Charlie Hawkins! You have truly been hooked into this… this petticoat punishment thing! You've even started thinking of a bubble bath as relaxing! Along with wanting to wear a corset to help lose a few pounds, I mean how girly is that? I don't know, will we ever figure out who you really are?' After whispering these comments to the image in the mirror, Charlene slipped off her robe and sank into the bubbles to relax.

*****

Charlene looked at herself in the mirror. She felt like she moved extremely slowly this morning. She had slept the 'sleep of the dead!' as her Mom had put it. No dreams or nightmares, this was a good thing, and she didn't think she moved all night long. This made getting up in the morning feel really stiff and a little out of sorts. Charlene did manage to brush her teeth and put her hair up before hopping into the shower. While she was beating away the stiffness with the spray from the shower, she heard Marie call out.

"Bonjour, Cherie! I have placed your lingerie on the shelf. Ms. Thompson asks that you wear one of the dresses you bought yesterday, so I thought I would set it out for you." Marie said in a way too cheery voice for this time of day.

"Morning Marie!" Charlene's replied "and thank you!" Charlene then stuck her face back into the stream of water. Finishing her shower, Charlene looked over the lingerie, bra, panties and a silk chemise. 'How did she know I was going to wear a corset today?' Charlene wondered as she put on the clothes. Slipping into the robe on the back of the door, she left the bathroom to see what was going on.

"Ah! You look refreshed this morning, how did you sleep?" Marie asked as she hung one of the new dresses on the door hook.

"No dreams last night, Marie. I don't think I moved much either, I woke up really stiff this morning." Charlene replied.

"Are you alright now?" Marie asked.

"Fine after my shower. Marie? I take it I am wearing a corset today?" Charlene pointed to her lingerie.

"May Oui! When you tried on the outfits yesterday, you had on a corset, no? So if you are to wear one of your beautiful new dresses, you will need a corset for them to fit properly, yes?" Marie replied picking up a corset and motioning Charlene to the lacing bar.

This corset wasn't as tight as the others Charlene had worn. Being slightly confused, Charlene asked. "Marie is that tight enough? Usually the corsets are tighter than this."

" The ends meet just fine, Cherie. This corset was purchased to allow you to wear the dresses you bought yesterday. It brings your measurements to the perfect size for them. The corset you had on was loosened after the fitting for break-in, no? So this one is sized for you at that tightness. It is one and one half inches larger than the one for your parade outfit." Marie replied as she tied off the laces and tucked them in.

"Now we need to hurry so you are not late for breakfast" Marie helped Charlene get into her stockings and then left her to fix her hair and makeup.

Charlene made it out her room door just as Jane was leaving her room.

"Good morning Ms. Thompson."

"Good morning Charlene! I see I was right. That dress looks lovely on you. Did you sleep well?" Jane chattered as they headed down the steps for breakfast.

"Yes Ma'am. Oh! Thank you! The dress is lovely." Charlene replied hoping to score a couple of 'brownie points' to start the day.

The conversation halted as they entered the dining room. Charlene took her place behind her chair as Marie and Joan brought platters to the table. Charlene could tell Joan was a little stiffer today too, so she assumed she was in a corset also.

"Shall we dine?" Jane gave her standard phrase before seating herself at the table and starting her 'twenty-questions' during the morning meal.

This Thursday, Charlene was following her own schedule. After breakfast, she had to change for ballet practice. This took a little longer due to the corset. Marie watched her practice in the 'play room' applauding Charlene's grace after an hour of working very hard. After a quick shower, it was back into the corset and dress from breakfast for the rest of the day. The odd part of the day was she only saw Joan and Jane at meals. The rest of the time they were nowhere to be found. Charlene decided to ask Joan about this while they reviewed the papers that evening.

It had felt strange all day. Joan was with Jane and Marie had come to get Charlene for morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. After dinner was Charlene's first riding lesson so a change of clothing was necessary in order to keep Jane happy. Afterwards, a quick shower and change out of the riding outfit before heading for the study. Joan was finally with Charlene during the evening study period. It was her chance to ask her what was going on.

"Hi Joan! How has your day been going?" Charlene asked as Joan entered the study area.

Joan looked at Charlene and let out a sigh. "Very tiring! Aunt Jane has me running all over and doing all kinds of new things. The worst part is I think this is only the beginning."

"Tiring? What kind of new things?" Charlene asked.

"We went shopping at a mall. I don't think Aunt Jane ever slowed down. She told me to go look for appropriate makeup for an evening out, then to go find a perfume that would be my scent, and then we went and tried on long dresses off the rack at Deb's. We only stopped for a short time in the food court for a salad and then on to jewelry stores and a Claire's Boutique. It… Well considering where we usually shop… It… It was strange to say the least. But it was also relaxed and a lot more fun too!" Joan replied. "Oh! I picked up this absolutely stunning gown! It really makes me look good. I'll show it to you at bed time!"

"You spent the day shopping and it was fun? With Jane Thompson?" Charlene asked.

"You really have to give Aunt Jane a chance, Charlene, she really can be a lot of fun when she wants to be. How about your riding lesson? Wasn't that fun?" Joan asked.

Charlene thought about it for moment and then shook her head. "Today is only the first time and she didn't know I had ridden before, so she started with all the basics before we could take Teddy and Garters out for a ride. The only thing I don't like is she is trying to teach me to ride sidesaddle like a proper young lady. It makes my legs hurt trying to hold onto the saddle in that position and the long english riding skirt is a real pain. Otherwise you're right it's a lot of fun."

The two students discussed a few more things about their day and then returned to study. By the time nine o'clock rolled around they were both ready for bed.

Once the girls were upstairs, they helped each other loosen the corsets and then decided Joan would read first and bathe second she wanted to just sit and rest before doing anything else. Charlene finished her evening rituals and looked over the papers. Looking at the clock it was only ten o'clock and Jane's bedtime was ten-thirty. Not wanting to go to bed early, Charlene looked around and decided it was time to redo her nails. She had just finished redoing her hands when she heard Jane tell Joan goodnight. Her door opened after a knock and Jane entered her room.

"I wanted to tell you that you did very well during the riding lesson today, Charlene." Jane stated as she stood in the doorway. "I believe we will be able to move quickly up to what I believe is your level of riding and with practice, you will even learn to ride sidesaddle very quickly." Jane started to turn to leave but stopped. "Oh! One more thing, I want you to be in a corset again tomorrow. Please pick another of the outfits we bought this week, it should fit you perfectly with a corseted waist. Goodnight, Charlene." With that last comment, the door closed.

Charlene looked at the door and then at her freshly painted nails. After fluttering her hands for a few more minutes to insure her polish was dry, she finished cleaning up and looked in her closet. There were three more outfits hanging in there that Jane had bought this past Wednesday. Charlene took a deep breath and let out a sigh. Under her breath in a low whisper she said "Why me?"



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