Change of Seasons

lights06.gif
December 2017 Christmas Dreams Story Contest Entry

Change of Seasons

By Tigger (Copyright 2017)

Author’s Note. Since the original Seasons of Change by Joel Lawrence dates to 1989, and my own most recent posted story of Seasons House was posted almost 11 years ago, the names and faces in this story (especially since many of them have several names) may not be familiar or easily recalled. Given that there are almost twenty fairly long to very long stories in the Seasons Universe, I have come up with two aids to readers.

1. Change of Seasons Addendum: Seasons Universe Recurring Characters. This list includes many of the characters who appear in many of the stories, lists the story the character made his/her debut and a short biography/synopsis of the individual.

2. Change of Seasons Bibliography. This document has a numbered list of the stories that include situations or other characters that are referred or inferred in the body of this story. It includes the name of the story, the author and a URL weblink for the posted file, all but one of which is on Big Closet.

a. Where the story is broken up into multiple files (e.g.., Part 1 of 3), there is an entry for that in the bibliography. For example, A Losing Season Part 2 of 3 is cited as “No. 3b.

b. If a character appears in every file of a multi-part story, the first time that character appears in this story, the reference will just be the number (eg., Barbara Anne (13) ).

c. If a character does not appear in every file, the reference in this story will point to the specific files in which that character makes an appearance (e.g.., Karen (3b,c).

My intent here is that, if you wish, you can go to the bibliography, find the cited link and then do a quick search on the referenced story part for the character and in so doing, get a little background and/or a refresher.

Finally, my sincere thanks and appreciation to my Beta Readers, Dawn, Crazypagangurl (aka Tiffani), QModo, Cesca Marie Walker and Sephrena Lynn Miller. You all had HUGE shoes to fill in this regard and you did. The story is as good as it is thanks to their help, talent and insight. Any mistakes are because I didn't listen close enough.

Thanks, and I hope you enjoy the story.

~-~

mansion4.jpg

Change of Seasons
by Tigger

Jane shivered from the chill of her morning walk as she strolled into the warm, horse-scented air of the Seasons House stables. Keeping it heated was an expense, but she had the money and her remaining horse was family. Jane’s Stars and Garters popped her head over the door to her stall and whinnied an impatient welcome.

Garters’ pet cat, Secret Victoria, jumped up onto the door sill and began grooming while her friend communed with her human. Vicky had surprisingly joined the family after Darryl’s horse, Teddi, had passed away last winter, leaving poor Garters alone and pining for company. The young barn cat had somehow sensed the mare’s distress and had taken upon herself to keep her stablemate company.

Jane came over and gave the cat the expected stroke and chin scratch before offering the cat treat she carried for just this purpose. Fair was fair, after all, as she had a carrot for her horse - and a sugar cube that Marie had pretended not to see her filch on her way out.

Shrugging out of her heavy coat, Jane hung it on a hook inside the stable near the heater. It was December in New England which meant grey skies, blustery winds and frigid chill factors. All part and parcel of a legacy that made New Englanders a historically hearty lot, and made New England tourist agencies despair. Still, Jane loved days like this as they were one of the many reasons she still lived here at Seasons House.

Jane let Garters out into the stable’s indoor arena for a little exercise while she saw to the horse stall’s maintenance. Such a more elegant and refined term than ‘mucking out’, she thought with a mental giggle. That task finished, she set about grooming her long time friend.

“It’s really too cold outside, dear,” she told the horse as she curried her vigorously. “And too slippery to risk you. She looked into the patient dark eyes and rubbed the grayer-than-ever muzzle. It reminded her of the encroaching silver that highlighted her own auburn mane these days. Well, she wasn’t one of those silly women who tried to fight her age artificially. No, she did her aging the old fashioned way. She ignored it, and when she couldn’t ignore it, she just accepted it as her own. Still, Jane Thompson was as fit as most women two decades her junior. There were just some times she wished she had a portrait she could hide in her own attic to get old in place of her.

Leaving Garters to move around as she wished, Jane wandered over to the full length mirror she’d long ago had installed in the stable. This was, after all, Seasons House. Her students needed to ensure they were neat and properly attired at all times. Crooked jodhpurs at a Jane Thompson equestrienne lesson? Simply not done! She examined her own reflection, noting that the mirror’s silver backing was getting corroded and a little worn. Well, it would do for now, anyway. In the future, well, they’d see what would be needed for the future.

Whatever the hell that future was, she thought in an rare moment of melancholia. Grimly, she shook herself, reminding herself she was Jane Thompson, and as the mirror indicated, still a fine figure of a woman. Not five pounds over her weight at college graduation - still trim, strong with the piercing eyes and commanding presence that had cowed her students and her investment colleagues alike. The dark heavy corduroy pants and heavy fisherman’s knit sweater in no way made her look stodgy or old.

“But we are both getting old, aren’t we, old friend?” she murmured as she headed back over to the unmoving Garters. “You’re supposed to be walking,” she chided the horse, and received a complacent snort in response.

Ignoring the equine rebuke, Jane led her horse back to the now-cleaned and refreshed stall. Satisfied she had won their little contretemps, Garters gave her rider a saucy tail flick before walking regally and happily into her place. She then sampled the fresh hay Jane had added to her feed bin, gave her Mistress what could only be a nod of approval and settled herself for her late morning nap.

Laughing at her mount’s haughty dismissal, Jane curtsied and said “I’ll be back after dinner tonight, sweetie. Maybe by then the footing will be a little better and we can go for a short walk before bedtime.” She added another stroke and chin scratch for Vicky, and then donning her coat, gloves and ski-cap, headed back outside. As she opened the door, she saw the cat jump to her favorite resting place on Garters’ blanketed back, and curl up for her own nap. Humans were just so tiring.

Jane checked her watch and decided she had been gone long enough. At least, she thought so. The nerve of Marie, Barbara Anne (13) and Audrey (10), kicking her out of her OWN kitchen. And if she hadn’t been gone long enough for their liking? Tough. She was, after all, Jane Thompson, and this was, by all that’s holy, Seasons House, and her family and friends were gathering for a Winter Holiday Party.

That said it all.

~-~

The three girls surrounded the great kitchen’s island worktop, their eyes huge as they followed each careful swipe of Marie’s cookie spatula. Fragrant, soft sugar cookies were placed with careful precision onto the large cooling rack. Unashamed longing etched in each perfectly made-up face.

“It’s TORTURE, Tante Marie,” Barbara Anne complained.

“Can’t we have just one?” Audrey wheedled, “Pretty please with sugar on it?”

“Non! You will spoil your appetites,” the petite brunette ordered.

“Oh, but Tante Marie,” Xhinea (13) put in, “We could split just one among us, just to taste test. You wouldn’t want a less than perfect cookie being offered for the party?”

“Ah, ma belle Xhinea , I am too crafty to play that game. You won’t tease me out of a cookie by challenging my baking skills like that little old woman with her pancakes. Now, off to your tasks, the lot of you. We still have many treats to finish! Well, get to it! Vite, vite!”

Giving her their very best Oliver Twist pouts, Marie’s helpers went back to their individual tasks while she stood guard over her cookies. Nodding her satisfaction, she tested one of cookies, and having decided it was cool enough to eat, broke it into four pieces and took one to each of her girls. Even to Bella who had looked the most wistful, but had held her peace and let the others do the asking.

Well, Marie thought smugly, Jane would fix that bit of shyness soon enough! The day one of her girls OR boys didn’t feel right asking for a treat? Not in HER kitchen! Well, after their first week here, anyway.

~-~

Jane carefully inspected her presentation in the three sided floor to ceiling mirrors of her private dressing room. She had chosen her attire for the day carefully. Precise and strong for the next little event on her itinerary, but then, after losing the suitcoat, adding a pair of gorgeous shoes, some colorful and sparkly accessories, Jane Thompson would be ready to party!

Her phone rang, and smiling at the identity of the indicated caller, Jane hit answer. “Art, you better not be calling to tell me you can’t make it!” she growled in her best schoolmarm voice.

“No darling, but I will probably be too late for your planned morning festivities. The Dean is determined to change my mind. She just wouldn’t let me go!”

Jane smiled at the frustration in Art’s voice. The Dean at Providence College was trying to get Art to teach ‘just a couple of courses and maybe a graduate seminar next semester,’ instead of retiring as was his stated, written intent. Jane figured it was still 50/50 as to whether her hubby would give into the determined college administrator - again - or whether they’d be taking that Caribbean cruise they had put a deposit on for the late February/March time frame. And the reason that the wealthy but frugal Jane had only put down the deposit on their tickets was because the odds were, at best 50/50. Art truly loved to teach, and he might find a student who ‘really needed him’ - again.

“And what did she offer this time? You are already Professor Emeritus and have a Chair named for you. Maybe a statue of yourself next to Roger Williams?”

An almost female giggle answered her. “You know, I never thought of that. Maybe if I insist that mine be bigger than Roger’s she’ll get the point?”

“Or you’ll get the statue, and be just one more adolescent male playing mine is bigger than yours. Then where would you be? Oh, yes! I know! Still teaching the boys and girls at PC and studiously avoiding being seen anywhere near your statue. Well, let me know what you decide in time so I don’t pay the next installment on ANOTHER cruise we won’t take. When will you be home?”

“Probably in time for the luncheon snack you’ve planned to tide everyone over until dinner. Couple of hours. At least the roads are clear.”

“Well, drive carefully. See you when you get here. Love you, Artemis.”

“Harumph,” he snorted at her favorite jab, “And I love you, even if you do tend to forget my legal name as you approach your dotage.”

“Dotage, my still toned and elegant derriere, husband! Just make sure you eat a good nutritious dinner tonight. You’ll need the energy for what I have planned, old man. If you’re lucky, that is.” And they signed off with smiles on both their faces.

~-~

Jane was just walking down the stairs when the doorbell rang. “I will get it,” she called as she proceeded to the grand foyer. Opening the door, she greeted her two long-time co-conspirators, Carolyn and Sandy. The three women exchanged greetings and hugs, as Sandy stripped off her cold weather gear and shook out her blond-gone-ash mane of hair. “Well, are we still a go?” she asked with her usual glee.

“Yes. I just have to gather her into my lair, give her the news, and then, you can work your evil ways with her.”

“Great! We’ll go get set up and you can send the miscreant to us when you’ve finished with her. Is the outfit you’ve selected for her in the usual place?” At Jane’s assent, the two stylists headed up the stairs while Jane went in search of Bella Howell.

~-~

Jane found her quarry in the kitchen, which was redolent with the warm scents of holiday treats and savory appetizers. She should have known, she mused. Bella, of all her students, loved the kitchen arts the most. Jane had already made preliminary arrangements for her to train as a chef the following school year. The child had a magic touch with pastry and an artist’s eye for presentation. Why, the girl’s desserts were entirely responsible for Jane having to add another fifteen minutes to her daily workouts just to keep her aforementioned derriere properly toned!

“I don’t know, Marie. You let students play in the kitchen but you chase me out! I want to play, too!” Jane said in a quiet aside to her best friend and confidante.

“Oh, pooh on that, Jane. It is my kitchen, and besides all of these girls know how to follow directions.” Marie sniffed more loudly, causing a titter of giggling at the implied slight.

“Very well, then! Bella? I need you in my first floor office please. NOW!” Jane watched her student scurry off to carry out her order. Once the door was shut behind her, the schoolmistress smiled, looked over her shoulder at the remaining cooks and helpers, before adding in her best lady of the manor tones, “I’ll be back!”

Somehow, Lady of the Manor and Terminator didn’t quite work together and she strode out of the kitchen to the happy sounds of female laughter. Well, she’d be back after she’d dealt with her student and then she’d remind those wicked girls just who is the Mistress of Seasons House. And besides, she could so follow directions. Mostly. When she absolutely has to. . .

~-~

Posture erect, face set, Jane marched into her office clearly on a mission. Walking over to take her own seat behind the imposing desk, she indicated for her student to take the lone chair directly opposite of her own. The low winter sun backlit Jane just enough to force Bella to squint, ever so slightly. Perfect, Jane thought.

For the first few moments, Jane simply sat, watching the femininely turned out student with baleful eyes. Pleased that Bella didn’t actually squirm, she nodded. “So, Marie thinks that you have learned to follow directions? Or maybe she merely meant the other girls and gave you the benefit of the holiday?”

One elegantly arched brow rose even higher as Jane waited for Bella to attempt a response or make an excuse. Pleased again with the youngster’s silence, she continued more sternly, “Nothing to say? Well, Miss, let me say that I’m not certain about that! Did you even think for a moment check your appearance before coming in here? Reporting to my office in an apron, and your makeup? Did you try to clean your lipstick off with your teeth because they are colored and not your lips. And Seasons House students use powder on their noses, not flour, and for goodness sake, girl, what IS that on your sleeve? Blood?”

Bella cast a furtive look at her blouse sleeves, saw the red stain on her left cuff and winced. “No, Ma’am.” She took a deep breath to avoid the ‘umm’ that was trying to sneak out, and continued, “It’s frosting. We were frosting cookies and gingerbread men when you came in and I must have slipped with the spatula when you called out. I can go fix it and then come back.”

“No, I don’t have time for this later. Far too much is going on today and I will be very busy. No, we’ll just get this out of the way and then you can go correct your dismal presentation. Actually it is a very good thing Carolyn and Sandra have already arrived. You simply cannot be allowed to attend a Seasons House event in your present condition. I can see I have no other choice.”

Shaking her head sadly, Jane stood and watched her student rise out of her own seat as she had been taught. Jane picked up a folder from the top of her desk and walked around to face the girl directly. “No choice at all, but to congratulate you and graduate you from Seasons House.” Jane opened the folder and presented her student with a Certificate of Completion. “Well done, my Dear. You have learned all we have sought to teach you. And your grandmother will arrive tomorrow to take you home.”

Bewildered, Bella hesitantly accepted the opened folder, glanced at certificate within and then stared back into Jane’s laughing eyes. “Graduate? Me?? Now? Really?”

“Yes, really,” Jane laughed. “Now, are you going to shake the hand I’ve been holding out to you or just make me stand here feeling foolish?”

Bella hadn’t even noticed the proffered hand, so intent had she been on Jane’s face and the diploma she now held in her left hand. She started to bring her right hand up to Jane’s and then yelled, “Heck no, I’m not!” and threw herself into Jane’s arms in a fierce hug that was just as enthusiastically returned. “Thank you, Aunt Jane, honestly. I was really messed up when I came here, and so darned lonely.”

“It was hard for your grandmother, having to raise you after your parents were killed. She wasn’t able to keep up with a teen’s life and so she tried to shelter you. What social skills you learned were aggressive and you didn’t have friends, just hangers-on out for a handout. Even though you’ve learned your new skills presenting as a girl, I think you, as Boyd, are ready to make friends that are friends, not users.”

For several more moments, they held each other until the sound of the door opening ended their interlude. “You ready, Momma Jane?” Darla (4) asked from the entrance. “Caro and Sandy are all set up and ready in the dressing room.”

“Yes, we’re done for now. Go with Darla, child. We’ll talk more later and again when your grandmother arrives. You do need a makeover if you’re going to attend one of MY parties.” and Jane gently wiped away an errant tear from her latest success story’s cheek. Gently kissing that very spot, she turned Bella to face Darla and gave her an encouraging pat on her way.

~-~

Jane stormed back into the kitchen. “It’s my darned kitchen and I get to help! And I do SO know how to follow directions. Most of the time.”

“Well, obviously Bella graduated,” observed a smiling Anne.

“And what does that mean, young lady?”

Darryl’s Audrey laughed and answered before Barbara Anne could, “ Well, you’re in here kibutzing instead being all school mistress-ly with your yardstick stuck up your. .”

“ROCKY (10)! Language!” Jane and Marie both yelped, a long trained Pavlovian response.

“Up your busk,” she finished, pleased with their reactions.

“Minx,” Jane muttered, trying without success to stifle her own grin. “Now, what can I do?”

Marie gave her best imitation of a student trying to look innocent after some act of mischief, “Well, we were holding the bacon wrapped chicken livers just for you as they are your special favorite.”

“YUCK!” was Jane’s heartfelt and wholly satisfying response.

Marie would later apologize to the guests for not offering chicken livers on the appetizer tray. “One of my kitchen assistants just couldn’t follow directions.”

~-~

Darla led her stunned charge up to the second floor dressing room Jane reserved for her students' use (and abuse). Inside, Caro and Sandy rose to greet the two young people. They each took one of Bella’s arms and led the dazed former student over to an elegant antique clothes stand on which hung a beautifully cut men’s suit, complete with a fine linen shirt, a silk tie and coordinating jewelry including cuff links sporting a stylized “SHG” engraving, a fine gold watch, tie pin and a oddly shaped gold lapel pin.

As Bella reverently examined the outfit, Sandy said, “And it will fit you perfectly, darlin’. Your old clothes are back in your room, but this has been hand tailored just for you.” She giggled. “We long ago learned that we can’t just give you your old clothes back and expect you to meet the exacting standards we’ve set for a Seasons House Graduate at a formal Seasons House event. Seems that a few measly months of corset-training, Jane’s sneaky exercise program and Marie’s artistically camouflaged healthy meals and her students typically experience significant figure changes. - even after we peel off the corsets.”

“Tailored?” Bella asked. It’s beautiful, but when? How? I was never fitted for any masculine clothes - at least, not since I first boarded that blasted train so long ago.”

Darla giggled. “Your last two trips to the Style Shoppe, remember? Jane told you she was having you fitted for your upcoming formal debut? Fitted gown, long sleeves, floor length skirt? Think maybe all those careful measurements might be applicable to, oh, I don’t know, a men’s suit or, say, even a tux?”

“And now Caro and Sandy are going to change my face and hair so I don’t look like Gal Gadot in Bruce Wayne’s business suit when I wear that today?”

“Wow,” Carolyn snorted, “Think highly of yourself, much, girlfriend? Gal Gadot? Really? Sandy, do you hear that? Perhaps we need to move to Hollywood. Our art is being stifled in this burg.”

With a head toss that would do the actress proud, Bella struck a hip-shot pose and smirked. “I am a Seasons House Graduate. I have learned to speak only the truth.” She let the laughter die down and then asked, “Well, Gee, Where do we start?”

Becoming very serious, Darla took both of Bella’s hands in her own, and looked directly into the former student’s eyes. “Boyd,” she began, using a name that had rarely been heard by him in recent months, “As Jane just promised, if you give the go ahead, you, Boyd, will be in that suit and tie, with your full masculine bearing and glory restored, by the time the other guests arrive.” Darla paused, letting that sink in. “Or. . .”

Bella/Boyd didn’t say anything. The months of Jane Thompson-guided educational 'opportunities' had taught her the hard way to tread carefully when the footing ahead, literal or verbal, was uncertain. Darla was, however, her Mother’s daughter and had the patience to out-wait her former student. Giving in, Boyd/Bella asked, “Or what, Miss Darla?”

Darla smiled at the oh-so-formal title and continued, “Or, you could help us with something. A little holiday surprise for Aunt Jane.”

“Another visit to the clinic?” Bella had become a well regarded volunteer at the Pediatric Oncology Clinic that was Jane Thompson’s other passion, and loved bringing a little happiness to the kids who had to face so much pain and anxiety day after grueling day.

“No, not this time, but thanks for thinking of that. It is just that we, all the rest of Jane’s former students, would appreciate it if you would join us boys in celebrating with Jane in our best femme finery - just one more time. Sandy and Caro have already set aside tomorrow morning for you at their shop. They will give you the full deluxe girl to boy transformation treatment tomorrow if you’ll agree to help us today. And Boyd the boy will still be here to greet your Grandmother tomorrow afternoon and then be home for Christmas. ”

“Well, shoot, what’s one more d . . . HEY! WAIT, you said ‘US boys’??!?”

“Ladies don’t yell out ‘hey,’ kid,” a wickedly grinning Darla chided before Darryl’s voice answered, “Din’t we larn ya better’n that?”

At the boy/girl’s dumbfounded look, Carolyn laughed and added, “Well, you certainly don’t think you were the first boy to whom Jane, no make that WE did this, do you? I mean, we are just a little too good at bringing the cute girl out of the naughty boy for your experience with us to have been beginner’s luck , wouldn’t you say?”

“No, I don’t think it was any kind of luck. I just thought you were just that darn good at your business and I wasn’t all that macho to begin with so. . .” A cautious look darkened the student’s face. “It won’t upset her?” and it was Bella who asked. “I mean, after graduating me, and setting all this up? She won’t mind if Boyd misses the party and Bella attends?”

“She’ll love it,” the three other women chorused.

Giving herself a little shake, and trying to acclimate to this new understanding, Bella smiled. “Okay, then, umm, sure, I’m in . . .Only. .”

“Only what?” Sandy pounced, in full domme mode to make certain the outcome she had already decided was best, happened to her satisfaction.

“Easy, Sandra,” Caro chided. “Only what, dear.”

Like so many other of Season House students, Bella had been drafted to be an actress at Jane’s little theatre company. She’d learned her lessons very well indeed. Putting on her best diva ‘Marilyn’ look and voice, she cried, “I don’t have a THING to wear!”

“Oh, is that all?” Darla said as she strode over to the still closed armoire. “And if those fittings at Brenda Franson’s could be used to tailor a men’s suit, what ELSE do you think a skilled lady’s couturier can create with them?” And threw open the armoire, earning a very satisfying ‘Omigod’ in response.

As Bella gawked, Darla turned back to the two older women. “Okay Sandy, Bella’s in, so she gets into the debutante gown we snuck in here after Jane had set out that suit she had secretly bought for Boyd’s triumphant debut and return home. Good thing you’ve learned to walk in heels, kid. That pair look amazing, but I think they are also likely lethal to wear for any length of time. Ah well, such is the challenge of beauty. Ready for the ball, Cinder-Bella?”

~-~

Bella shyly strolled around the outer edges of the party crowd that had gathered and was still growing. She had never seen so many people at Seasons House. Oh sure, she’d suffered through Jane’s little soirees from hell, but even those had never involved more than a dozen guests - all probably carefully screened she now thought. There had to be more than a hundred people here, and more, every adult was dolled up and en femme! The only pants she saw were on youngsters and those were short pants. And they all looked, well, really good. Okay, she told herself, most of them looked very good, but none of them out of place at some ritzy party out in the real world.

Moreover, from what Darla had told her earlier, at least half of these women were guys! Lived and worked as guys. It was amazing that they could all be so at ease here in satins, silks make up and sparklies. “Well, what does that say about you, Boyd? You’re more than comfortable in this dress,” he thought as he passed Bella’s reflection in one of Jane’s many mirrors. “Comfortable? Hell, try smug.”

She saw Michelle (1,2,3), another of the regulars she had come to know in her time at Seasons House and went over to say hello. “Hi Dr. Nash, good to see you.”

The blonde turned a huge smile on the younger person. “And you, too, Bella. I want to thank you for staying in the masquerade today. I don’t know if I would have willingly made that choice on the day Momma Jane graduated me.”

“Oh, I think you would have - all of you would have, or you wouldn’t all be here now, dressed as you are now. She’s that special to all of you.” Bella hesitated and then pressed on, “I just have one question though, and it has been bugging me ever since Darla spilled the beans about Jane’s program. . .”

Michelle took a sip from her drink and indicated that Bella should ask her question. “Well, it’s just everyone looks so, ummm, real here, in their party clothes, and I never once clued in that you or Darla or Jessie (12) were boys, so I just have to know. . .”

“Know what, girl? Spit it out?”

“Aunt Jane IS a girl, right?”

From the other side of the room, Jane looked on wondering what had Michelle sputtering with laughter into her wine.

~-~

Sometimes there was just more joy than a person could hold inside at one time. Standing apart from her guests for a moment Jane scanned the crowd while turning through the pages of her memories. As her eyes fell on each guest, she remembered him or her as she had first encountered that student, recalled the special challenges each one had posed.

“I was so much younger then,” she told herself, not sure she could handle such as them anymore. She’d had to get physical with that one, she recalled, and that one had needed 24 hour vigils until we were sure the student was not a danger to herself or to the family.

Smiling, she saw her little Adrienne (13), still preferring Chinese cheongsams when presenting en femme, holding hands with his better half, Xhinea (13b,c,d). Happily married, with five girls. Xhinea had carried their first to term, but her pelvis had proven to be too small for normal birth. Advised by doctors another pregnancy would not be safe, Adrian had followed his passion and had adopted four girls, including three that the agencies had written off as ‘too old.’ His little adoption service was highly regarded and thanks to his Aunt Jane, well funded. All those beautiful little girls needing a family and one of HER boys was making families happen. If she’d been a cat, Jane would have purred.

A flash of deep auburn caught Jane’s eye and she saw Jesse’s statuesque Tatiana (12b) grinning down at her husband. Even in heels, Jessie didn’t quite reach her height, especially when Tatiana wore her own. Jane allowed herself a feeling of happy satisfaction at that successful bit of behind-the-scenes motherly manipulation.

As she’d hoped, Jesse had fallen head over heels with the vivacious redhead who had taken over her mother’s New Haven art business. Then, the three women had neatly maneuvered Jesse into his current role as legal consultant and advisor to nonprofit art foundations and freelance artists. That boy would never have been happy if she’d let him go into plain corporate law. Idly, she wondered if it was finally time to give him back the journal she’d saved from the trash bin all those years ago? She’d ask Diana to investigate that for her.

There was Penny (11b, 12), playing with some of the children. The student who had needed to learn to forgive herself so Benny could live fully had become a special educator. She worked with emotionally troubled kids, helping them find good solutions to their problems. Jane harrumphed. Penny and Benny needed kids of her/his own. Okay, it had worked with Jessie, so hmmmm, who do I find to sit under the apple tree with my Benny?

Oh, and there was Caitlyn (8) with her affianced partner, Tasha (8b), chatting with her beloved Tante Marie. The ballerina had recently retired as an active soloist and was setting up her own studio to teach little ones to love dance of all kinds. It was odd how these things happened, Jane mused. The boy who could not dance in the masquerade because he was really a girl masquerading as a boy, was engaged to her first gal pal, having reconnected when Tasha’s daughter had wanted dance lessons. It was just perfect. Caitlyn teaching her soon-to-be daughter to love dance as her own mother and Tasha had taught her.

There were a few missing, she thought with a bittersweet smile. Life wasn’t quite that perfect and some of her boys just had lives they couldn’t get away from, even for a short time. Bill was still sheriff and currently short handed at the office. Hopefully, he’d put in an appearance later but probably not as Willa (14), darn it!

Charlie (6) had been planning to be here, but his wife decided to go into labor yesterday - two weeks early! - so he was checking in periodically from the birthing center. All Jane could tell was that the poor girl had better deliver soon before either Charlie went bonkers or drove the girl to violence. Or both. Charlie had finally learned to deal more appropriately with most emotional stress under her program as Jane well knew, but she supposed that impending fatherhood was as good a reason for a slight setback as there could be.

As for Charleen’s little sister, Valerie (6) was currently overseas troubleshooting some problem in Debbie’s (6) world-wide cosmetics empire. Eugene’s scatterbrained texts had been filled with frustration and impending doom for some poor soul. Something about a virus attack hitting a Windows server someone installed to handle the corporation’s Black Friday Sale without Valerie’s knowledge. Certainly without her approval. Ah, to be a fly on the wall when Val cornered THAT culprit. . .

The night before, her Wilma, also known as Colonel William Decker USMC (11), Brigadier General selectee, had skyped in since his unit was deployed overseas. Wearing full desert camo-makeup as it is the ‘closest he could come to Aunt Jane makeup over here in this desolate sandbox.’ She had frowned furiously, just for effect, and then ordered him to report to her as soon as he could get back stateside. Wilma, she had decreed, needed emergency refresher training so she could relearn to ‘color within the lines properly.’

All her boys and their ladies, all here, at least electronically.

Well, almost all her boys.

~-~

Sylvia (3b,c) and Erica (3) strolled over to chat with Beth (1,3) who was near the buffet tables. “You look great, Beth!” Sylvia said. At least Beth thought it was Sylvia. Even after all these years, the husband and wife were still hard to tell apart.

“Do you have any idea what it took to squeeze into this overpriced sausage casing?” Beth replied with a half smile, “I made a very expensive, very strict personal trainer/dietitian very happy, let me tell you! Since I just KNEW Aunt Jane and Michelle were going show up looking as fantastic as ever, I busted my butt and my gut getting into this dress. I think next year, I’m just gonna wimp out and show up in a tux. Probably still need a corset, though.”

“Well, it was money well spent,” Sylvia replied, gesturing for Beth to give them a model’s pirouette. “Lord, but my Erica should look so good. Hell, sweetie, I should look so good. Well, I know what New Year’s Resolutions our family’s going to make,” and then giving a sharp wifely look to her curvy spouse. “And KEEP, cutie.”

“Yes, dear,” Erica answered meekly before turning to glare at the chortling Beth. “And Beth, dear? When David comes to town to visit next spring? Make sure he brings his golf clubs and his money! When I’m hungry, and I will be thanks to you, I am a thorough going bitch. Just expect payback, sweetie.”

Beth gave a huge sigh and shrugged. “Guess I’m putting the money I thought I’d be saving after getting into this get-up on golf lessons.”

“So long as you save some to lose, sis!”

~-~

Michelle caught sight of a very tall blonde and stared for a moment. Recognition hit and taking Janice’s (3) hand in his, told her, “Honey, come on. There’s someone I really want you to meet,” and began moving over to where the tall woman stood with a more normal sized partner at her side.

“Karen (3b,c)!” Michelle called out as she and Janice got closer. “I’m so glad you could make it!” and wrapped the bigger woman in a huge hug. “You look great!”

Taken by surprise at the effusive greeting in what she’d expected to be a fairly laid back crowd, Karen goggled, looked over to her partner, then to Janice who was grinning, and then down at the top of the blond head pressing hard between her boobs. “Micha. . . I mean, Michelle?” she squeaked out. “AIR, girl, please!”

Laughing merrily, Michelle released the hug but kept one arm tightly around the lovely guest and reached the other out to snag Janice. “Janice, honey, this is Karen. She’s the, umm, teacher from that, uh, school in Nevada I told you about. You know, the one Momma Jane found for me?”

“School?!?” Karen almost choked laughing. “Is that what you told her it was?”

Janice reached over to pat the other woman on the arm affectionately. “HE, oh, excuse me, I mean SHE told me everything, Karen. About the school and that very special curriculum Jane ordered for Michael, but she wasn’t nearly detailed enough about the faculty. Woman, you are gorgeous, and let me say right now, I thank you EVERY night for your superb instruction and training. I am a very happy woman who benefits regularly from her superior educational experiences both here and in Nevada.”

“Okay, then,” Karen said with a bit of a western drawl creeping in. “Not the usual reaction I get from wives of my, ah, former students. And Michelle, you look great - just as beautiful as when I first met you.”

A sly smile crossed the still gamine face, “Well, as good as I looked after we raided the, umm, basement wardrobe,” hinting at the change of attire to clothes borrowed from the stock of cross dresser supplies in the Mustang Ranch’s dungeon.

“Yeah,” Karen replied giving her smaller escort a smoky look. “That’s how I learned to do my huntin’ in a different field. Ladies, I’d like to introduce my husband, Tiffany.”

The petite but solidly built redhead smiled and shook hands with Janice and Michelle, “Although I go by Timothy when I file my taxes.”

“When I file your taxes, sweetie, but only then,” Karen put in, “At home and at work, she’s Tiffany, and ALL MINE.” The look she gave her partner was hot with love and possession, and Tiffany just snuggled up closer to her lover’s free side. “She headlines at one of the cabarets in Vegas. I’m her business manager. I now have an agency for girls like Tiff and for girls like me who’ve gotten out of the game. We get them training and real jobs. Help them with stuff like doctors and other such things.”

Michelle nodded, but made no comment. She and Kendra were already aware of what Karen did for a living, which was why they had invited her to tomorrow’s get together.

“I’m a graduate, too,” Tiffany offered quietly. “One of Aunt Jane’s early Seasons House students.”

“That’s one of the reasons we came, Michelle, so Tiffany and I can thank Ms Jane and her team for everything she did for a boy who was going bad places because no one knew or would acknowledge what he really needed.”

Tiffany giggled. “And I’m not really sure Jane knew back then, either. I was just another budding juvenile delinquent, but her program taught me who I was, who I could be and a lot of how to achieve that.”

“So, how far have you gone,” and it was Michael the Doctor speaking now.

“As far as I want. I am under a reputable doctor’s care,”

“NOW!” growled Karen with a ferocious scowl.

“Yes, dear. Now, I am under a reputable doctor’s care. I have had augmentation surgeries to fill out some, and I’m on a carefully controlled regimen of hormones. Just enough for some secondary characteristics and not enough to permanently preclude the possibility of children. I am as whole as I want to be and very happy with my life now that tall-stockings here is running it for me.”

“I don’t run . . .” Karen started and stopped at a smirk from her lover. “Okay, I do, but not like the gal who, ah, worked in the basement at my old school.”

“Well, I see Caro, Sandy and Brenda over by the buffet,” Michelle said, “C’mon and I’ll introduce you, Karen and reintroduce Tiffany. Don’t know what Tiff has told you about the Seasons House curriculum, Karen, but those ladies are key members of the faculty. And I just bet they have some stories about your honey’s times here that they’d just LOVE to share with an interested party.”

“Oh, really?” Karen was already moving in their direction, her spouse’s hand firmly clasped in her own.

“Oh, thanks loads, Michelle,” Tiffany grumped as she scrambled on her ice pick heels to keep up with the long-striding blonde.

“Think nothing of it, girlfriend. See you tomorrow if we don’t get back together today.”

~-~

Darla finally spied Victoria (11) momentarily standing off from the crowd and sighed. Taking a deep breath, she made her way over to her Seasons House protegee. “I wanted to make sure I caught you alone so I could thank you - again! - for taking such good care of Teddi. I know you did the very best anyone could for her.”

Visibly relieved at the greeting, the veterinarian who had learned to love caring for horses while Aunt Jane’s student, smiled sadly, “I was sort of afraid you would not want to see me, so I sort of hung back. Thanks for not holding it against me. Usually the owners I work with see their animals as investments, not beloved pets. I know that was really hard for you.”

Darla gave a snort. “Investments? Yeah, like your wife treats hers, Sis? Pull the other one, why don’t you? It was my call, Vicky. And together we made the right one. It was time for her, and I’ve had time to deal with it some. It sucks having to be the grownup, but after all is said and done, and given where she was health wise? She wasn’t happy, and it was the most loving gift we could give her. Miss her, and I haven’t ridden since she got sick, but you gave me the straight, hard truth, and helped me to make the difficult, but best decision. We’re Jane’s girls. Any other decision would have been unworthy of all she’s taught me - hell, taught all of us.”

“Yeah, I hear you, but I’m glad you are okay with my part in it. You matter big time, Miss Darla.”

“So do you, youngster,” answered the prim voice of Miss Darla.

“But I don’t think Aunt Jane is going to let you go too much longer without getting back in the saddle, pal. I have intelligence from a horse breeder in my family who shall otherwise remain nameless that our beloved mentor has opened exploratory negotiations.”

Darla sighed and smiled. “I know and I know her. If not for Christmas then for my Adoption Day/Birthday. You know? She’s getting to the point that she just doesn’t feel the need to even pretend to be subtle anymore.”

“Gotta love her,” Victoria agreed, raising her drink in a toast.

“She wouldn’t have it any other way,” Darla agreed, touching her glass to Victoria’s. “And neither would we.”

~-~

Michelle sidled up to Sandy, offering her a fresh glass of champagne. “How did it go? Is he going to make it?

“If he doesn’t, I will go find his ass and drag him here by his ear! Caro, Brenda and I worked on him for four hours this morning!”

“How did he turn out? Good enough he won’t just bolt? We did have to promise him if he didn’t think he looked good enough to appear before Jane en femme, he could wear guy stuff.”

Sandy kissed her fingertips smugly. “I am a miracle worker. He looked fine, no, scratch that! SHE looked BETTER than fine. SHE looked great.” Lips curled into an impish grin, Sandy lowered her voice to a near whisper, “and I’m not the only one who thought so . . .”

“Oh HO? Surrender the deets, girl!” Michelle ordered.

“Her wife thought she looked great, too. In fact, I had to fix her makeup after she got through with her. TWICE! I gave the wife a cosmetics kit in case they, uh, messed it up again before the party. And I brought an extra kit along with me so I could do some last minute magic when they got here. She’s good with makeup, just not a miracle worker.”

“Like you.”

“As our guest of honor is wont to say, child? Just so.”

“And look who just arrived! Donna? Over here!”

~-~

It was an incredible feeling, Donna Madden (9) thought as she carefully moved about the elegant Victorian home, meeting and chatting with the many party goers. Every one of them, touched and made better by the Jane Thompson experience. By Jane Thompson. “Even me,” she told herself softly, “And I’m the one who thought he’d gotten away. Except I didn’t, and thank God for it. At least I learned enough from her that I knew what to do when I got the chance.”

She didn’t realize she was looking for someone until there she was, or at least, there Donna thought she was. Moving closer, she hailed, “Excuse me, but are you Carol? Carol Morris (9)?”

The tall woman turned and gave Donna a quick up and down look. “Why yes, and you are?” She asked with a smile.

“Donna. Donna Madden. You’ve never met me en femme, before. We met here on Christmas Eve, oh, must be almost fifteen years ago.”

“I remember you!” was the bright and happy reply. “You were here when I needed you. You started my turnaround! I’ve so wanted to see you again so I could thank you!”

Donna found herself swept up in a tight hug, momentarily at a loss for what to do or say. Slowly she pushed away and looked into the other woman’s eyes. “Umm, that’s not quite how I remember our meeting, Carol.”

“Oh, I was a thorough-going bitch and sniped at you until you felt like you had to leave. I was quite proud of that at the time, but you asked a couple of hard questions that I couldn’t NOT think about. Those questions led to hard answers and then harder questions that started my turnaround. How are you doing? You look gorgeous! That’s right! I have never seen you in the masquerade. Do you do it often? Oh, I shouldn’t ask that.”

Laughing at himself as much as the situation, the male beneath the Donna-mask looked up at the taller former student. “Wow, and the surprises just keep coming. Don’t worry about it and to answer your question, today marks the first time I’ve dressed since I walked out of Seasons House as a failed student the last time.”

“Really? Well, you look great. Maybe you should do it more often. It seems to suit you.”

“If my wife has anything to say about it, I suspect I will be doing it more often. Ah, here she comes. “Linda, let me introduce Carol. I’ve told you about her. She was the student who was in residence when I came back to Seasons House; right before I managed to buy your family’s company back. Carol? My wife, Dr Linda Madden.”

“So you’re the one I have to thank for turning my hubby into a human being! You could have knocked me over with a slight breeze when he came and told my family that the company wasn’t going under.”

“I understand he was going to appoint you CEO?” Carol asked as she shook Linda’s hand.

“Oh, he thought about it, but I wasn’t getting roped into that mess. I’m a teacher and have no interest in those silly business power games of his. Nope, I made him CEO and had him teach my little brother how to swim with those sharks. I went back to school and got my school administrator’s license.”

“Oh, cool. So, Donna, what do you do now that Linda’s brother runs the company?”

“I am the CFO of the educational foundation my wife runs. She finds the causes, I find the money and help make the ideas work in the real world. It’s . . . satisfying. . .”

“You’re a team . . .wait, foundation? Are you going to be at that shindig tomorrow? With Jane?”

A smile lit Donna’s face. “In the words of our hostess? Just so. See you there, Carol.”

~-~

There they were. Those little tells that were only someone who knew Jane Thompson as well as her long time lover and spouse would see. “I’ve been expecting this,” Diana whispered softly to herself. Excusing herself from the group she’d been chatting with, Diana slipped away and moved to put an arm around her love. “You okay, sweet?” she whispered in Jane’s ear.

Jane took a deep breath, and nodded shakily, a watery smile on her face. “Look at them, darling. Even the ones who can’t really pull off the masquerade anymore. They’re all here. Or they’ve been calling in and checking in with us. But all that can be here are here. Just Val and Char and Will and .. . and . .” and now the tears did fall.

With skills born of years helping out at Seasons House, Diana spirited her emotional wife into a quiet side room, closed the door and simply held her. “DAMMIT, Diana, I couldn’t SAVE her.”
Jane, Jane, hush. Lora had problems that were not in your power to help. Look at our kids out there. Without exception, they were fundamentally good kids who went down a bad path and didn’t get pulled back in time to prevent consequences. Still, they came to you while, deep down, they were still good kids - just a little lost.

“We always remember the ones we couldn’t save. I do, and I bet that Michael and Erica can name every patient they were unable to help. But sometimes, it’s just not in our power. Maybe if you’d gotten Lora (14) sooner, but her sociopathic issues developed very early. I’ve read her file. And it would have been pretty darn hard to petticoat discipline a four-year-old because that’s when she started abusing animals and hurting other kids. Kinda hard to use the deep-dye cosmetics on a four-year-old and make it seem like a threat.”

Sighing, Jane cuddled in closer. “I know - in my head. My heart says she should be out there on the dance floor, laughing and having fun with the others.”

Diana thought for a moment. “Get our coats. I’m gonna tell Michelle, Kendra (5) and Darla you needed a bit of air so they won’t pull down the walls looking for you.”

~-~

The two lovers linked gloved hands as they stood in the cold, biting wind in front of a small granite monument. “She’s here, love, and I like to think, more at peace than she ever was in her short, violent life.”

Jane stepped over to the headstone and put down the small bouquet of Christmas flowers she’d brought with them. “I pray that’s so, Diana. She was a hard nut, though. I was thinking that she was the first student I had to physically restrain - heh - had to put her down on her little butt hard. Surprised her no end, which was probably the only reason she backed down and pretended to play by my rules for as long as she did.

“I was so young then, Diana, so full of myself and so sure of my wonderful program. Ten years later, hell, even just five I’d have seen that she was only biding her time, waiting for her chance to escape - or worse. I was too inexperienced to recognize the danger she represented above and beyond any other I’d ever encountered. So she’s here, instead of inside with the rest of my kids. Merry Christmas, Lora. Peace be with you.”

The couple stood there a few more moments and then turned back to the path leading to Seasons House. “I was thinking about Bella graduating today and what comes next. One thing I realized, I could not handle a physical attack by a new student as I did with Lora that time. And both Marie and I needed naps this time just to keep up with Bella. NAPS! Darn it, Diana, we’re getting old!”

“Speak for yourself, woman. I’m feeling rather spritely, meself. Someone said I was getting lucky tonight.” They both laughed and huddled together as much for the closeness as to combat the wind. “Have you given any more thought as to what comes next? After our cruise, I mean.” At Jane’s shrewd look, Diana shook her head. “Not teaching. Honest! Free to cruise.”

“We’ll see how long that stands THIS time, lover. Seems to me I’ve heard that song before. By the way, do you know what Michael, Kenneth and Darryl have on their minds? They asked if we could meet with them in town for a surprise tomorrow.”

“If I knew, my love, and then I told you, it would cease to be a surprise. Darla in a snit is almost as scary as you! I mean, you taught her. So, no.”

“No what?” Jane pressed, “No, you don’t know? Or no, you won’t tell me.”

“Just no, my love.” And Diana dodged Jane’s playful punch and reached off the path for a handful of snow. “Of course you realize,” she said in her best Mel Blanc impression, “Dis means WAR!” and pelted her lover in the chest with a big fluffy one.

And took off running for the house as fast as she could in her too-tall heels with Jane right behind her promising righteous retaliation and retribution.

Well, in not quite those words.

~-~

Seasons House was ominously quiet the next day when Jane and Art came down for breakfast. Bella was already at Marisha’s Chalet for her breakdown back to Boyd, and whatever it was that rest of Jane’s family was up to had them out of the house as well. The stately house missed the life and energy the young people brought into it. Why, Seasons House felt stodgy in its silence, almost like, God forbid, Edith White with shutters.

The three adults breakfasted quietly in the sunlit nook just off Marie’s kitchen. They’d all agreed that there was little point in using the formal dining room without students here. It was easier to clean up and more intimate to have it in the nook.

Jane made several attempts to steer the conversation towards the meeting her boys had planned for later than morning, but each was deftly dodged, turned aside or even ignored by her husband and best friend. Oh, they knew, Jane fumed quietly, and they weren’t sharing. Okay, it was a surprise and they wanted to keep it that way, but if she was nothing else, Jane Thompson was a control freak of the first order. She HATED not knowing a secret, especially when she knew it was a secret.

Something like this just had to be a violation of the marriage rules! No male should know a secret and keep it from the female when the female wants to know it. If it wasn’t one of the rules, well, the second rule was that the female should immediately change the rules if she thinks the male knows them. Okay, it would now be a rule. No more secrets from the female.

Except Marie was also helping to keep the secret. Jane thought about digging out the housekeeper’s contract and see if there was a clause about keeping secrets. But they didn’t have a contract, did they? Just a hug and a handshake.

Darn!

~-~

An hour and a half later, an outwardly composed Jane Thompson was escorted by Kenneth into the main conference room of his law practice. Finally, she inwardly fumed, and then came to an abrupt halt as she took in the crowd that waited for her inside. The room was packed! Bill Beale took station at the door they’d just entered, closing and locking it.

A quick scan of the crowd showed her that almost all her boys from yesterday’s party were there, in male attire, along with their wives, partners and significant others. The main table seated Jesse and Donald Madden to the immediate right and left of the head, with Michael, Darryl, Caitlyn, Victor, Adrian, David (1,3), Eric and their wives paired up down the table’s long sides. Kenneth seated Jane, Marie and Art at the foot of the table and then proceeded to take his own seat at the head of the table.

“Those of us who know and love you aren’t fooled for a minute by your calm exterior, Momma Jane. You are as curious as a cat in a fish market and wondering what the heck this is all about. It’s about the future of Seasons House, or at least, some options we’d like to explore with you for the future of Seasons House. As you yourself have admitted, Momma Jane, the last few students have been especially challenging for you and your team. . .”

“KENNETH THOMPSON-ROBERTS, if you dare infer that I am getting old. . !!!”

“I beg your pardon, Ms Thompson,” Ken replied in his best Rumpole of the Bailey tones “but I and my brethren are highly evolved, well trained and civilized modern males. NEVER would such a scurrilous thought or words occur to ANY of us. . .”

“Because we, their wives,” Barbara Anne put in, “Would make their worlds a living hell for even thinking such a thing. . .”

“That’s what I just said,” Ken agreed, smiling at his golden-tressed wife. “However, there are challenges to continuing the Jane Thompson Winsome Girls School for Wayward Boys now that were not issues in the past. For example, turnover of personnel at your support sites, specifically, Milady’s Closet and The Style Shoppe.

“Brenda told me that on at least two occasions recently, she barely stopped a student from giving the masquerade away to a seasonal employee. Combined with the proliferation of camera phones, social media and the blogosphere, it is only a matter of time before your program gets outed, and outed hard into the public arena. Short of eliminating any public excursions for your feminized students, we don’t see anyway to prevent that, and before you say it. We know. The stress of being in public and protecting the masquerade is a critical aspect of the program as it currently exists.”

The fact that Jane held her counsel at this and did not try to contradict her honorary son spoke more loudly than any words of hers.

Nodding, Kenneth continued. “Mom, some of your team are starting to think about retirement plans and second careers - at least stepping back from the day to day operation of their businesses. Judge Ruth retired last year, and your contacts with social services are drying up, too. Heck, Bella, err, Boyd was actually the grandchild of one of your sorority sisters which is how you got that referral. I know you didn’t look for a student because you were hoping for the cruise with Daddy Art to actually happen this time, but it has been getting harder and harder to find the students who would respond to your program already. Did you have even a whiff of one when it was time for Bella to be a big sister?”

Jane took a deep breath and sighed out, “No, Kenneth. And you are right, I didn’t look all that hard, either. Okay, you lot. You’ve got something cooking in those heads of yours. I accept that I can’t get away with my program anymore for many reasons - not that I’m getting old. Tell me what you are thinking of doing with my home.”

“Well, Mom, actually we have two ideas that we’ve sketched out and made preliminary plans for. Donald and Michael are both willing to help front the start up costs and endow either plan, but it is your home, your legacy. You have to be on board. Right now, Jesse, Victor, Michael, Darryl and I, along with our wives are sort of an ad hoc foundation exploration team. We’ll give you the bare bones of our two concepts and you can decide if you want us to proceed with either idea. Adrian?”

The diminutive social worker stood, kissed the top of his wife’s head and went to the screen that was coming down in the front of the room. “Aunt Jane, as you know, my work has been primarily based in getting orphan girls who weren’t being adopted out of the PRC and getting them to families here who want children. I have two challenges. The first is that it is always easier to place younger children than older kids, and the second is that we are starting to get a rash of kids who are, although born male, not welcomed by their families. Some are transgendered, some are intersexed, bisexual, the entire gamut of alternatives with which our society is struggling.

“The problem is that in China, well, it’s the same as it was with girl babies when we started our agency only worse because these kids are at least four years old when their issues start to become evident. We’d like to start a home for those kids here. Get them therapy, counseling, education and hopefully, a family. Oh, I know that’s going to be a challenge, but if we can help them adjust, help society adjust, there’s a chance. More than they have now.”

From one of the back seats, Michael’s Karen stood up. “Ms Thompson, right now my company does some of that for kids we pull in off the streets in Reno and Vegas. We aren’t so much tryin’ to get ‘em adopted, as help them find themselves, get healthy and find a place for themselves. My company’s learned a lot in the years since Tiff and I started, and we would like to be part of this. Maybe if we learn enough, we can sort of franchise this idea and help more kids in more places.”

“And what role do you see for me, Adrian?” Jane asked, her schoolteacher frown evident.

Adrian grinned. “Why, you’d be Grandmother to the house. We’d have professionals doing the day to day counseling, the therapy, the teaching. You are going to be in charge of giving them and all our staff, a family.” He grinned and shot her a sly look. “Granny Jane.”

Jane sniffed audibly at that and then turned back to her tall son. “I see. Kenneth? You said you had two plans?”

Nodding, Kenneth turned to Donald Madden who turned to his wife, “Linda?”

Linda stood, nodded to someone in the crowd and Jane was surprised to see Penny, not Benny, stand and move to the front of the room with Dr. Madden. She had not realized anyone other than Caitlyn was presenting as female.

“Ms Thompson, Aunt Jane,” Linda began, “Penny and I are both special educators. As you are no doubt aware, we work with children who have special needs and challenges, helping them overcome those challenges so that they are able to learn and become productive members of society. Both of us specialize in helping children who have emotional issues that in the worst case, results in the children harming themselves. More specifically, we work with children who have gender identity issues, or who are outside the norms from an orientation perspective.

“Federal, state and local governments are making sporadic attempts to force mainstream institutions into recognizing and helping these children, but the resources are slim and compete with other programs that are just as needy. Finally, the research on how to help these kids is confused and inconsistent. Frankly, even if there were adequate resources, the needed training and support for all the care givers we envision needing just aren’t there yet or haven’t been proven where they are.

“Penny and I would like to open an experimental school - we won’t call it that. Experimental sounds too wishy-washy. Think of it as a Medical Research College. We will take in these children - help them find themselves, find their own way at the same time we’re learning from them what they need and what they can use. They’ll get an approved academic curriculum to be sure, but they’ll also learn life skills that they’ll need to live in society. It might be as simple as makeup and cosmetics, or it could be nutrition and exercise programs to help them achieve a healthy body that is in keeping their self image.”

Karen stood up excitedly, “Boy, howdy! Oops, sorry Ma’am, Ms Jane, but we’d sure like to be a part of and learn from y’all. We just feed the kids what we can scrounge for them and fight to get ‘em to go to school. A place like you’re talkin’ about? It’d be a God-send for some of my kids!”

“Thanks, Karen,” Penny said, “and if this works the way we think it will, the way we hope it will, that idea you had for franchising is something we would want to explore so that we can export what we learn to where more kids could take advantage.”

“And before you ask, Aunt Jane, we were sort of hoping you’d be on our school board and also be in charge of our dorm-mothers, sort of UberMom for all our kids.”

The smile on Jane’s face told Ken all they needed to know. “Okay, Momma Jane. Mike, Donald, Jesse and I will handle the financials and the legalities of what ever we decide to do. Adrian and his team or Linda, Penny and their team will set up the programs, find the kids and take care of the day to day raising and teaching. Darryl, Mike and Eric will take care of the students medical, psychological and emotional needs. . .”

“Hey, don’t forget me!” Art yelped indignantly.

“Darryl, Mike, Eric and Daddy Art, when he isn’t being Dorm Grandpa or First Assistant to the UberMom. We have basic plans and funds to start. So, Mom? What will you have?”

The green eyes gleamed with a wicked light that every former student instantly recognized. Then, Jane composed herself, folding her hands elegantly on the table, and in her best Shirley Temple voice whined,

“Can’t I have both?”

~-~

Christmas Eve, Two Years Later.

Dressed in her bright red Mrs. Santa dress, Jane fussed one last time over the placement of the special family gifts under the small tree in her private quarters. Moving over to the window, she looked out over the snow-blanketed expanse of the Jane Thompson Foundation School at Seasons House where her children played. Not as cool a name as Winsome Girls School for Wayward Boys, but a whole lot easier to say in front of a bunch of stuffed shirts she intended to fleece for contributions. Ah, she still knew where the bodies were buried and those stuffed shirts knew that she still knew, so donations were generous.

There were currently about two hundred children in residence, some from Adrian’s connections, some from Karen’s and others from other sources. Jane’s biggest concern with the plans had not yet posed too great a problem. Yes, many of the children were dealing with any number of emotional and personal issues, but the staff had succeeded in creating Family for them. Linda and Penny were very good at their chosen vocations.

Slowly at first, but gradually the children had learned that they weren’t here to have their corners shaved to make them fit in some ‘normal’round hole. They learned that they were valued here and their hopes and dreams were also valued and supported. Jane worried now that maybe they weren’t taking children who really needed them, that maybe it had been too easy. Well, that was a question for the next board meeting.

Jane was more in love with the New Seasons House than ever before. And she loved, Loved, LOVED her roles as GrannyJane and UberMom! School was attended in uniform and the children always had a choice of three basic sets. A masculine outfit with a shirt, tie and slacks, a feminine version with a blouse, a fitted skirt, hose and a choice of flats or heels, and finally an androgynous choice that could combine elements of the first two, and had an optional kilt in the Thompson plaid. Jane insisted that however the student chose to present on a given day, the uniform be squared away and neat. It WAS, after all, Seasons House and she WAS, after all, Jane Thompson.

The proprieties must be observed, she thought, and then giggled happily.

Casual wear for outside of ‘school hours’ also had to be neat and clean, but was still more relaxed than the ‘old days.’ However, following long Seasons House tradition, Sunday dinner was a formal affair with ‘proper attire’ mandatory. If presenting as male, a coat and tie was required, shoes properly shined. Acceptable feminine wear was a church-worthy dress, hose and heels with suitable cosmetic enhancement required. The first time was hard for many new students as it seemed too good to be real, but the other students usually got them turned around and outfitted for what had become a fun event. Always followed by dancing. Caitlyn (and Jane) insisted.

Outside, Art was leading a group up the trail from where he had been teaching them how to cross country ski. From the look of them, the teacher had spent more time in a snow bank than the students. Out in the corral, Garters dozed in her winter blanket with Secret Victoria curled up on her back. Audrey’s and Darryl’s new mount Satin-Lace, or Lacy for short, was prancing about the snowy enclosure kicking up his heels and sending snow flying about. Anywhere but Seasons House, Jane thought with a laugh, Lacy would have been an odd choice of name for a two-year old colt. Here? It simply worked.

The smell of vanilla and cinnamon and other spices wafted through the house as Marie taught those who were interested more of the art of holiday baking. In the distance she saw the outline of two of the new dormitories that had been built to accommodate the kids and new faculty. Four of them in all, each named for a Season - Winter Hall, Spring Hall, Summer Hall and Autumn Hall dotted the estate along with the school building itself. ‘All Seasons School for All Children’, Jane thought with a smile.

Her boys had given her all this, and then had tried to tell her that it did not even begin to balance what she had given each of them. They were so wrong. This legacy would go on, each of them having a hand in it, each of them working to perpetuate it.

The first of their school’s graduates were even now away at college and several were planning to come back to Seasons House as the future teachers and counselors. Tiffany and Karen were in the final stages of starting up a west coast version of the school at some small town in western Nevada.

“MOM!” a voice bellowed from downstairs accompanied by the tittering of children. “IT’S TIME FOR PRESENTS!!! HURRY UP!”

“Ah, Leather Lung Michael. Never quite broke you of that, did I?” Jane thought. “You weren’t the first, but you were the beginning of all this change. When your Mother sent you to me as a last ditch attempt to salvage you, and I nearly lost you. You marked the beginning of my own personal Season of Change. I became a different, better Jane Thompson after you and Darryl and Kenneth and so many others taught me so much more than I ever taught any of you.”

Overwhelmed by emotion, Jane let a few happy tears fall before hurrying back over to her vanity to fix her face - again. It was almost time for Santa to come and hand out gifts to the children. A weepy Mrs. Santa just would simply not do at such an occasion! Not at all. As always, Jane insisted everything about this party be Just So.

And it was.

The Beginning Continues.



If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
up
73 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 12555 words long.